Kay King, Executive Director of the White Ribbon Alliance, highlights the development of the March with Midwives movement and plans for protest.
Find all the resources you need to join here.
Anybody working or studying within or with even a grain of interaction with maternity services in the UK over the last decade has probably become familiar with the term ‘the maternity system is broken’. In describing a system as broken there is an othering that occurs; it makes the system, our system, our care service something other than ourselves, rather than seeing it as a product of our collective passion, dedication and care for women and families. The maternity system is us, it is us as women, as birthing people, us as midwives, as doulas and leaders and academics and as families and I challenge anybody to call us broken when, after the years of relentless dismissal of our needs we are still not deterred from showing up to do our work, to birth our babies and to strive for the improvements we know are needed to ensure respectful and dignified care are a reality for all.
But something is broken and over the last year we have realised the impact of this as we witness the reality that:
- 60% of UK midwives are considering leaving the profession;
- for every 30 newly qualified midwives, 29 are either leaving or never entering the workforce – meaning the NHS gains only one extra midwife;
- 91% of student midwives in Scotland, Wales, and NI report their training bursaries were inadequate to live on;
- 87% of midwives report they regularly have to delay going to the bathroom at work due to lack of time and
- an estimated 30,000 birthing people a year experience birth trauma in the UK with up to 30% of all service users rating their birth as traumatic and similar percentages showed some symptoms commensurate with PTSD.
This year we have seen the maternity services so undervalued in the UK that we are at a forced point of breaking, we are facing a maternity crisis of epic proportion and still we rise to self-initiate the call to action required to demand improvements. Far from being broken, we remain strong, are forced into acting out of resilience rather than respect and point the finger back to the broken power systems and our government for not valuing our efforts, despite our continuous demands for improvement.
In October 2021 a grassroots movement started on social media as midwives’, doulas, lay-people, families and health care professionals came together to say that ‘Enough is Enough’ and formed the March with Midwives movement. With 17,000 members and growing this grassroots movement will be hosting national, local vigils on the 21st November at 2pm in public spaces across towns and cities in the UK. Our demands are that the UK government
- LISTEN: The APPG and health ministers concerned with maternity need an urgent consultation with us to undertake a system wide diagnosis to address the immediate crisis.
- FUND: An immediate appropriate, restorative pay rise for midwives that reflects the value society places on their vital work. Award recruitment and retention premia to new entrants and existing staff. Provide financial support for student midwives and create posts for all newly qualified midwives.
- ENABLE: Make it possible for Self Employed Midwives to work, thus putting 250 experienced midwives immediately back into the workforce.
- REDUCE: Provide £5m of crisis funding to 3rd sector organisations for the provision of breastfeeding support and antenatal education to reduce the pressure on midwifery staff.
Women and children suffer at the hands of governments who do not prioritise their need for quality health and wellbeing, and where we suffer, so do our families, communities and countries. Ensuring that adequate resources, required funding and appropriate work conditions are in place to improve our capacity to deliver respectful, equitable, safe and dignified maternity care is vital and urgent action is required to shift the narrative from a broken system to a system that is enabled to thrive.
To join your local vigil and stand with us in the March with Midwives on the 21st of November 2021 at 2pm, you can join the movement on Facebook or Instagram by searching for #marchwithmidwives and finding your local area lead. We are the maternity system and through these vigils we will demonstrate our collective strength and commitment to a better future.