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Health Minister asked to explain recruitment targets to fill gaps in maternity services

2 March 2022

Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt has asked Health Minister Maria Caulfield to explain a gap in the numbers of midwives and obstetricians the Government intends to recruit, and evidence given to MPs on the number of additional staff needed.

The NHS has said it will increase the size of the maternity workforce by recruiting 1,200 more midwives and 100 obstetricians. However, evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into the safety of maternity services by Health Education England estimated that there was a 1,932 shortage of midwives.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggested that a 20% increase of obstetricians and gynaecologists on maternity units would be necessary, which NHS Providers estimated to be a further 496 consultants working in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee said:

“In our report on maternity safety we recommended that the Government take urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services, with staffing numbers identified as the first and foremost essential building block in providing safe care.

“It is welcome that this action has begun. However, there is a startling gap between the number of obstetricians that the NHS intends to recruit and the number of consultants that we were told were needed – nearly five times as many. Extra posts in midwifery are more than 700 short of the numbers that, again, we were told were needed. 

“Health Minister Maria Caulfield must explain to us how these recruitment figures were arrived at and whether there are plans to take on more midwives and obstetricians in the coming months."

The Health Minister is also asked to provide further information on a new Maternity Disparities Taskforce, announced by Government, to ‘level-up maternity care and tackle disparities’. Both the Committee’s Report on maternity safety and a report from the Committee’s Expert Panel highlighted the inequality in outcomes for mothers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Expert Panel Chair's Comment

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee’s Expert Panel, said:

“Throughout our evaluation into Government progress on its commitments in maternity services, we were struck by the persistent health inequalities experienced by women and babies from disadvantaged groups.

“While the announcement of a taskforce aimed at tackling these inequalities is to be welcomed, what is missing is information about how the taskforce will record its progress and make that information available to the public.

“On workforce numbers, the Expert Panel identified persistent gaps across all maternity professions and rated the policy of ‘safe staffing’ as requiring improvement. Additional recruitment must match the number of extra maternity staff needed that has been clearly identified.”

Further information

Image: PA