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Welsh midwives work hundreds of unpaid extra hours to keep services running – RCM

11 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Photo by jas from Pixabay

Midwives in Wales are working hundreds of extra unpaid hours to keep maternity services running safely according to a new poll.

Results of the poll published by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have revealed more than eight out of 10 (83%) midwives have worked extra hours for no pay over the course of just one week.

Over half (53%) of midwives told the RCM they had worked five additional hours across just one week in March, while almost a quarter (21%) had worked up to 10 extra hours unpaid.

Almost 10% of those surveyed confirmed they had worked over ten hours, the equivalent of an extra shift.

The RCM has described the situation as ‘unsustainable’ and ‘grossly unfair’ particularly as midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) in Wales remain in limbo about their pay latest pay award which yet to be settled.

In its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), in addition to a real terms pay increase, one of the RCM’s demands was for members who work additional hours to get paid fairly.

Improving pay was also highlighted as a crucial factor in retaining midwives.


The RCM’s Director for Wales, Julie Richards, said: “The results of this poll are deeply concerning and have really laid bare the extent to which maternity services in Wales are too often run on the goodwill of midwives and MSWs.

“They come at time when our hardworking members have again been left in limbo with regards to their pay.

“The Welsh Government should be doing all it can to support our members as the strive to improve the care they are delivering in Wales. However, it would appear valuing staff and paying them fairly for what they do is sadly not a priority for this Government.

“This is simply not good enough when we see official report after official report making a direct connection between staffing levels and safety.

While there has been some progress it clearly is not happening at the pace that’s needed to improve safety in Welsh maternity services.”

Safely staffed

The RCM says over two-thirds of midwives (67%) said they did not feel their services were safely staffed during the seven days between Monday 4 March to Sunday 10 March.

Almost the same number (62%) said in the past year they had considered leaving the profession, citing the main reason as safe staffing followed closely by pay.

Earlier this year the RCM said that ‘ending the midwifery staffing shortage was possible’ as it published a new guide which also included low-cost solutions to improve working conditions for midwives, It was developed for current and future Members of Parliament, setting out solutions to the issues faced In Wales but also right across the UK.


A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Despite pressures on our budget, we have maintained investment in education and training for the NHS workforce. There is a global shortage of all health care workers, and we are working with health boards to fill vacancies against this backdrop.

“Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) is currently developing a Strategic Perinatal Workforce Plan. The plan will encompass the training, recruiting and retaining of healthcare professionals and will help ensure NHS Wales has the right perinatal workforce in place, now and for future maternity and neonatal service provision.

“All health boards in Wales are expected to be staffed to Birthrate Plus standards, which is a nationally recognised assessment model for midwifery staffing.

“We’ve maintained our education and training budget level at £281m this year, and since 2017 midwifery training places have increased by 41.8%

“Our National Workforce Implementation plan sets out actions to how we will improve recruitment, retention and reduce reliance on agency staff.”

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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
1 month ago

Not really surprising. This has been expected for doctors from the beginning. There is a culture in the Treasury of expecting clinical staff to work for less than reasonable pay based on working unpaid overtime. This includes notional on call and other concepts. The NHS should long ago have adopted a culture of paying staff for what they actually do. Modern clinical practice is much more binary and you are either needed or not needed and rosters should accept that and mostly work in shifts or set sessions.

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