By Isabel Ringrose
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Midwives’ protests demand action over crisis in maternity care

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Midwives said that "stress and blame" make up their working day.
Issue 2832
Midwives and supporters: about 100 women assembled in Parliament Square with placards demanding action over maternity care

Midwives and their supporters gathered in Parliament Square in London

Midwives and their supporters protested in 32 towns and cities across Britain on Sunday. The March With Midwives movement is campaigning to raise awareness of the crisis in maternity care, the pressure on midwives and the wider healthcare emergency. 

Protesters demanded better pay, staffing, conditions and bursaries for students. Placards in London, where 150 gathered,  read, “We say pay more” and “Save the midwife”. Others included facts such as 86 percent of midwives have no time for toilet breaks and 75 percent of midwives skip meals. 

One speaker said the protest was called because “the government had admitted that there’s no credible strategy to tackle the crisis”. 

Two thirds of midwives have considered leaving the profession and between April 2021 and April 2022 some 600 left the NHS. Mental health is at breaking point, with many midwives experiencing PTSD. Midwives said that “stress and blame” make up their working day.

Midwife Molly told Socialist Worker, “I’m always apologising for something that’s not my fault. You don’t even have time to fully explain the thing you’re apologising for. We can’t do our jobs properly. Women and their babies deserve better—so do midwives.”

Midwife Ellie said, “It’s service users who are going to suffer because we don’t have the right resources to help them properly.” 

She told Socialist Worker, “I worked 12 hours yesterday and I didn’t go to the toilet until 4pm. If I can’t look after myself, how can I look after someone else? My brain isn’t able to cope.”

Molly agreed. “You feel it physically when on shift. It’s like you’ve been on a run all day. Morale is usually good but you can feel the stress—it’s really borderline whether people are going to break.”

Protesting midwife Hattie said that she feels stress and anxiety “constantly”. “I think people don’t realise the state the NHS is in until they come in needing care and see how bad it is. And it’s us who feel the brunt of it.

“Every day I’m texting people from work about things I’ve forgotten to do to see if can they do it for me. It’s like women who come in are on a conveyor belt.” 

Ellie added, “Students are also undervalued. They’re not getting enough support or teaching from us because we don’t have time.”

Jo is a student midwife. “It’s unsafe, people experience burnout,” she told Socialist Worker. “We don’t see our families because we’re working. And it’s hard watching the midwives because we can’t help— there’s just not enough of us. We’re taken advantage of. We won’t stop because we care about each other and the women we look after.”

Protester Mel told Socialist Worker that there need to be more resources to encourage retention. “For 30 students only one will qualify and stay in the profession. We’re overworked and underpaid.” Mel added that “In a few years there won’t be an NHS. That’s so scary. We have to make a stand now.”

The battles in the NHS taking place over pay are central to defending and improving care. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has launched a strike ballot in England and Wales that closes on 12 December. RCM members in Scotland have already voted 88 percent for strikes on a 61 percent turnout.

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