Royal College of Midwives calls for renewal of initiative to support staff mental health

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has urged employers, activists and branches to renew the Caring for You initiative in maternity units.

The initiative revolves around improving the health, safety and wellbeing of maternity staff and the eagerness for its renewal comes at the same time that the RCM has also asked the UK Government to improve maternity services.

Both of these calls come against the backdrop of the recent release of the RCM’s annual member survey, which showed that 57 per cent of the midwives it surveyed were considering leaving the NHS over the next year. Of those that had left or said they were leaving, eight out of 10 respondents were concerned about staffing levels.

The RCM also found that “the highest level of dissatisfaction among those surveyed came from midwives who had only worked for five years or less in the NHS”, which the College says could significantly impact workforce planning and the ability to provide “acceptable levels of safe, quality care.”

Also citing results from its survey that show “alarming levels of dissatisfaction from staffing levels, poor pay and lack of investment”, leading to “experiences of being overworked and underpaid”, which consequently impact the mental health of staff, the RCM is calling on the government to work with the union and the NHS on recruitment and retention.

On World Mental Health Day, which took place on 10 October, the College also said it was supporting its members through the Caring for You initiative, which promotes staff wellbeing with simple ideas such as keeping hydrated at work and seeking support for mental health, the latter of which can be accessed through a dedicated resource hub.

RCM also highlighted how pressures around pay, living costs and fuel shortages can impact midwives.

The RCM is not the only Royal College calling for improvements in these areas as, earlier this year, the Royal College of Nursing also updated its Healthy Workplace Toolkit and emphasised its ‘Rest, Rehydrate and Refuel’ initiative to show how important healthy breaks are for the workforce.

Suzanne Tyler, the RCM’s Executive Director for Services to Members, said: “We are urging members to have a conversation about mental health, check in with those around you and ask twice if someone needs support. We know that the growing pressures in maternity services are pushing midwives and maternity support workers to breaking point and beyond.

“Investment in recruitment and retention is key but it is a process. We need investment in health, safety and wellbeing now. Our Caring for You campaign highlights some short fixes to help those that need it most. Making sure someone has a break, that they keep hydrated and rest their feet – or checking in with a colleague and friend and listening to them. These are small but effective exercises we can use to keep the wellbeing of staff on the agenda every day.”

These latest updates from the College closely follow the release of a Care Quality Service Commission (CQC) report on wider concerns about maternity care in England.

Earlier this year, the RCM was also part of the One Voice coalition that underlined the need for improved buildings, facilities and spaces for maternity services to improve both the level of care for women and staff’s working conditions.