Maternity services facing rising demand

The Royal College of Midwives is concerned about growing pressures on Scotland's maternity services.
The Royal College of Midwives is concerned about growing pressures on Scotland's maternity services.

Scotland’s maternity services are buckling under the pressure of rising demand, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

In a report due to be published tomorrow (Tuesday) the college has said that a combination of high birthrates, an ageing workforce and an increase in births to older mothers are responsible.

The RCM’s State of Maternity Services Report brings together information about maternity services in all four UK countries and also highlights the pressures on maternity services facing each country.

Despite a recent dip the report outlines that births remain high in Scotland. Grampian saw a rise of almost a quarter (23 per cent) between 2003 and 2015. Across the same period a rise of almost 1000 births was recorded in Lothian, a jump of over 11 per cent.

The RCM also noted that births are becoming increasingly complex, with obesity in pregnancy a major issue causing more complications with an increased need for additional support and care. In Scotland more than a fifth of pregnant women are obese.

Births to women in their late thirties are up over 2,000 since the year 2000. Births to women aged 40 or older is up by around 1,000 and for those over 45 the number of births has jumped fourfold, from 29 to 143 between 2000 and 2015.

Another pressing issue is Scotland’s ageing midwifery workforce, and the need to ensure that those heading for retirement are replaced.

The RCM is working with the Scottish Government and the health service to consider intake planning for student midwives to ensure that there are enough midwives with enough time to gather experience before the retirement time-bomb hits.

Mary Ross-Davie, RCM director for Scotland, said: “We have to stop Scotland facing the shortage of midwives that has blighted England for over a decade. We will do this by ensuring that all those midwives heading for retirement are replaced in good time. This needs careful planning for the future, but it needs doing now.

“We have serious public health issues in Scotland with high levels of obesity and smoking in pregnancy among many other issues. With older mothers it is the women who will decide when they get pregnant, and we support whatever choices they make. What is important is that we have the right numbers of staff and resources to give all of these women the best possible care.

“Scotland’s maternity services are very good but there are signs that it is beginning to buckle as demand rises. Our Government and our NHS need to show even more that they value maternity services, that they value midwives and that they value the women, babies and their families that the service cares for.”