March with Midwives UK: People come together to support maternity staff

Dozens of March with Midwives vigils took place nationwide to highlight issues within the profession.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 1:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 2:52 pm

The vigil in Chichester took place at the Cross on Sunday, November 21 at 2pm.

Its aim was to raise awareness of the current crisis across the UK in midwifery retention, working conditions and the general state of perinatal and postnatal services.

Victoria Greenly, who organised the event and is a doula, said there was around 50 people at the event and the Town Crier Richard Plowman lent his support to the vigil.

March with Midwives

She said: "We highlighted what the march was about, the difficult working conditions for midwives, the effect on mental and physical wellbeing and as a result of these midwife retention, focusing on the stats.

"We read some poems, one from a former midwife and midwives shared their experiences as did a new parent. We marched around the Clock Tower with our banners and chanted, What do we want? More midwives. When do we want them? Now.

"A crowd gathered. We were approached by members of the public who were concerned about the lack of midwives, how midwives had helped them during their birth and postnatal period and how many of them had seen how postnatal care had lessened over the decades. Retired midwives talked about how much more time they had been allotted to give more personalised, compassionate care."

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Victoria Bastable, from Chichester, attended the event with her sons Louie, 9 and Archie 10. She said: "We need more midwives. We went to show support for my sister and all other struggling midwives, and hope to improve their working conditions as they are not getting breaks or time to eat or drink whilst at work and are all suffering with tiredness.

"It was a great turnout, lots of midwifes sharing their stories. There were loads of kids showing support to their mums, nans and aunties."

A recent Royal College of Midwifery survey of midwives found 60 per cent of staff are thinking of leaving the profession and for every 30 newly qualified midwives, 29 are leaving.

The RCM estimates the UK is short 3,500 midwives and this problem is growing rapidly - the April 2021 NHS report showed the number of NHS midwives had fallen by almost 300 in just two months.

Clare Meynell, who is a retired midwife living in Birdham, said: "The event was excellent, very positive and provoked a lot of public interest attracting a nationwide event with 22,000 involved.

"The general feeling from the families and Midwives present was that there is a significant problem with lack of time to give proper care, women being left alone for long periods anxious and worried about themselves and their midwives not being able to have any breaks during the long shifts."

After the event it is hoped that the All-party parliamentary group and the government will listen to all staff and service users and their advocates, fund emergency retention, enable anybody willing to work or train and reduce the demands on staff.