New Midwives in the North East to deliver improved maternity services

The North East is to get 118 extra midwives, as the Labour government invests in improvements to maternity services.

As the number of births in England increases, we need more midwives to keep pace with demand and improve the quality of care for mothers. Labour is investing £330 million of extra funding for maternity services over the next three years, recruiting an additional 4,000 midwives by 2012.

Former midwives will be offered a “golden hello” of up to £3,000 to return to the profession, providing free training and financial support while they study, to encourage them to bring their expertise back to the NHS.

North West Durham Labour MP, Hilary Armstrong said:

“This is great news for families in the region. Our midwives do a great job, but we need to make sure we have enough to meet demand and to give choice to mothers. I’m especially pleased about the measures to attract former midwives back into the profession – they have so much to offer the NHS, and they deserve to be rewarded for their expertise.”

Labour’s Health Secretary Alan Johnson said:

“Labour’s new investment will make a real difference to maternity services across the country. Improvements to our maternity services have already made making the UK one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby, and the overwhelming majority of women have a positive experience of pregnancy and birth. But there is still room for improvement, and these new and returning midwives will help us deliver our commitment that by the end of 2009 all women will have choice in where and how they have their baby, a choice of type of antenatal care, and a choice of how and where to access postnatal care.”

Notes to editors

About 593,400 NHS hospital deliveries took place in England in 2005-06, up 1.6% on 2004-05. 15,900 deliveries (2.6%) took place at home in 2005-06. This compares to 2.3% in 2004-05.

In 2006 there were 635,748 live births occurring in England compared to 572,826 in 2005.  There has been an 11% increase in the birth rate in 6 years.

There are now 2,708 (1,245 full time equivalent) more midwives than in 1997. The number of students training to become a midwife since 1996/97 has increased by 20%. The 2007 workforce statistics published on 14 March indicates that there are over 600 more headcount midwives in 2007 than in 2006, and over 400 more FTE midwives.

The number of births per midwife was steadily reducing with the increased investment in the NHS - from 33.7 births per midwife in 1997 to 31.2 births per midwife in 2001, until the birth rate started to rise unexpectedly at the start of the millennium, when the ratio began to creep up again. Levels of births per midwife are now very similar to the levels in 1997 - with an average 33.7 births per midwife in 2006.

The number of consultants in obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) continues to grow. At September 06, there were 1,506 - an increase of 474 (46%) since 1997. The number of Registrar doctors in O&G has increased by 409 since 1997.

The UK is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. The UK rate for 2000-02 of 7 maternal deaths per 100,000 pregnancies is less than that of France (17), Switzerland (7) and the USA (14). And maternity services are the safest they have ever been. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 5 deaths per thousand live births - the lowest rate ever for England and Wales.

Results of the Healthcare Commission’s survey of women’s experiences of maternity services (November 2007)  found the vast majority of women had reported a positive experience of the care received during pregnancy and during their labour and birth: 89% rating the care received as “excellent”, “very good” or “good”; and 82% of respondents reported that they had always been spoken to in way they could understand, and treated with respect and dignity.