Inadequate staffing levels and “dangerous” working conditions are forcing midwives to leave the NHS, according to a new report.
The study of more than 2,700 midwives revealed some were looking after up to 15 mothers and babies at the same time and working 12-hour shifts without a break.
Midwives also reported not being listened to when raising concerns for the safety of mothers and babies and feared making “tragic” mistakes.
The poll, for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), was made up of 31 per cent of midwives who have left the profession in the past two years and 69 per cent who were intending to leave.
Former NHS employees’ reasons for leaving included 52 per cent being unhappy with staffing levels, 48 per cent unsatisfied with the quality of care they were able to give, and 39 per cent unhappy with their workload.
Sixty-two per cent of midwives intending to leave stated they were unhappy with staffing levels, 52 per cent were not satisfied with the quality of care they were able to give and 46 per cent were unhappy with the workload.
Further reasons for leaving included one midwife’s account of “trying to provide good as well as safe midwifery care despite ridiculously low staffing levels and having to complete endless paperwork just to prove I was there”.
Another said in the report: “I was often working 12.5 hours with no breaks. My unit was struggling with employing enough midwives - we had a shortage of 30 full-time midwives in the unit. I was not able to deliver the care I wanted as decisions were often made about a woman's birth without her full involvement.
“It was not safe to look after 15 mums and babies on a postnatal ward by one midwife. We were not listened to when we raised issues over staffing and safety.”
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: “Maternity services are performing as well as they are on the backs of the selfless dedication of midwives and other maternity staff, and their capacity to go that extra mile for mothers and babies, day after day. However, this shows that many cannot fight that battle any longer.
“Enormous demands are being made on midwives and the services they work for, yet investment in these services from the Government remains inadequate to provide the quality of care that women deserve.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We want midwives to feel proud of their work and that they have enough time and support to give good care.
“That's why there are over 1,800 more midwives on our maternity units since 2010, as well as over 6,300 currently in training, with our changes to student funding creating thousands more training places by the end of this parliament.
“The NHS is also launching a £5 million campaign to help improve the health and wellbeing of staff.”