A new report published by the RCM on the opening day of their national conference has revealed the true cost to the NHS of the current shortage of midwives – £97 million.
Since last November the RCM has maintained that because of a rise in the 2015-2016 birth rate, England alone faces a deficit of 3,500 midwives. As a result maternity units are being forced to turn to expensive temporary staffing arrangements to ensure they are able to deliver women the best and safest possible care.
Today’s report came about as a result of freedom of information (FOI) request investigating the costs of temporary staffing through agency, overtime and bank use. 159 local maternity services responded to the FOI request – 98% of NHS bodies across the UK.
The report reveals that 26 NHS organisations spent over £1m on temporary staff – primarily from the NHS Bank. Of the 26 organisations, 24 are in England with one each in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There were nine organisations that spent over £2m.
The report also served to underline the staggering pay differential between temporary and full time staff. An agency midwife could expect to be paid nearly £44 an hour, whereas a permanently employed midwife with 10 years’ experience working full time in the NHS, could expect around £18.
It is estimated that the £97m spent on overtime, agency and bank staff would have covered the cost of 2,731 full time, experienced midwives or 4,391 newly qualified midwives.
RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes said:
“This report shows quite clearly that our maternity services are under staffed and under resourced. The use of temporary midwives to staff permanent shortages is counter-productive and smacks of short-termism when there needs to be sensible and strategic long term planning in midwifery and across the NHS. It is costing more in the long run to pay agency, bank and overtime than it would if services employed the right numbers of midwives in the first place.”
“The average midwife has seen their salary decrease in value by over £6000 since 2010 so it is little wonder why midwives are looking for opportunities elsewhere. This report shows that the vast amounts of money spent on temporary staffing can and should be used to recruit and retain permanent staff and is proof that fair pay for midwives is overdue.”
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