"We CAN afford to fix the crisis in midwifery. We CAN’T afford not to" - Banbury campaigners to support midwives tomorrow (Sunday) in crisis in maternity care

Campaigners from the Keep the Horton General group (KTHG) will travel to Oxford tomorrow (Sunday) to join midwives, their families and supporters in a vigil to highlight the crisis in maternity care.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 12:17 pm
Updated Saturday, 20th November 2021, 10:54 am
Midwives will be joined by campaigners from Banbury and other supporters in their vigil in Oxford on Sunday

Members of the group - who have been fighting firstly for protection of the Banbury obstetric unit (until it was removed in 2016) and since then for a return of full maternity services to Banbury - will join the March for Maternity Midwives' vigil in Bonn Square from 2pm - 4pm.

Banbury mums, husbands, children, grandparents and all supporters of the NHS are urged to join the group in the vigil. Maternitiy spokesman Sophie Hammond said: "We CAN afford to fix the crisis in midwifery. We CAN’T afford not to.

"Midwives are overworked and undervalued midwives and this combination is risking lives. The Government must show they believe that midwives matter and stop jeopardising safe births.

"We can’t afford to ignore the crisis in midwifery any longer and we urge others who care to join us at this vigil at Bonn Square, Oxford tomorrow at 2pm."

KTHG chairman, Keith Strangwood said: "Up until 2016 there was a full compliment of Horton Midwifes who worked well as a team and who were there to back up other areas.

"Banbury had its own special care baby unit and the maternity hospital at the Horton provided essential back-up for Oxford, which is now not coping as they can't retain staff. Midwives wanted to live and work in places like Banbury where they felt valued, where it was a smaller, more family-friendly unit and supported by their colleagues.

"The OUH closed the Horton unit because they needed our midwives, our obstetricians and our special baby care nurses. This centralisation tactic has not worked and midwives are leaving the profession which is placing expectant mothers in danger. Something has to change."

KTHG press officer, Charlotte Bird said: "Keep the Horton General has been monitoring the maternity situation at the JR and is extremely concerned at the continuing lack of availability.

"The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH) has closed the midwife-led units in Chipping Norton and Wantage due to the chronic lack of staff in Oxford. It is immensely frustrating, having fought so hard to retain obstetrics at the Horton where the midwives were a happy, cohesive, award-winning team, to witness the erosion in midwife morale which has led to huge swathes leaving the profession."

Statistics compiled by March with Midwives UK Facebook page said 60 per cent of UK midwives are considering leaving their profession; 57 per cent have said they will leave the NHS in the next year.

More than 80 per cent of those planning to leave cited inadequate staffing levels and over 67 per cent said they were unhappy with the quality and safety of care they are currently able to deliver.

For every 30 newly qualified midwives 29 are either leaving or never entering the workforce, meaning the NHS gained only one extra midwife. In 2018, the number of NHS midwives in England rose by only 67 Despite 2132 midwives, graduating from universities in 2017.

One midwife on the March with Midwives UK Facebook page said: "We've reached the bottom. Lack of staff, unsafe conditions for parents and workers have brought us all together (thousands in just days) to alert the Government of the crisis we're in. I will be at Bonn Square, Oxford on Sunday. Also we want people to write to their MPs. There is a slack and long-term plan MPs are copying and pasting back to us. They need to know the crisis is NOW."

Many midwives in hospital settings and in the community - dealing with women during pregnancy and their routine assessments and problems - are also wives and parents and are trying to juggle the intense demands of their jobs with home life - shopping, family outings, children's homework and even elderly parents.

One midwife (not from Oxfordshire) said: "I know the only way that things are going to improve if we look after our midwives, if we make sure they've got more funding if we make sure their well-being is looked after. The vigils are what we need to make the government listen.

"I had a horrific experience in hospital. It was lockdown which may have amplified the issues with staffing problems but the facilities were not correct, there were not enough resources to accommodate all the people in the hospital or the mums giving birth and I just had a terrible birth. And it could have all been completely avoided if we had better facilities and a better situation for midwives."

Advocate and legal advisor to midwives, Paul Golden, said on the March for Midwives UK page: "All countries have seen similar problems with maternity services being under resourced, underfunded and understaffed. That puts a huge pressure on the existing midwives to do the jobs of many other midwives... Midwives are so burnt out and it's avoidable and preventable. If you have one out of 10 midwives turning up for a shift, how can they possibly do their work safely for themselves and safely for the families?

"In Australia you have a ratio, where midwives can only look after a certain number of women and babies. In the UK the babies are just an add on. There's all this extra paperwork, extra things for midwives to do, and it just makes the job - that could be so rewarding and satisfying, providing safe care to families, virtually impossible to do at the moment."