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Midwives missing out on meals and loo breaks, report reveals

OVERWORKED midwives are missing meals and loo breaks while at work as they do not have enough time to take them, a report revealed today.

Midwives are also working additional unpaid hours, on top of long shifts, according to a survey of 980 professionals in England carried out by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

More than a fifth are working at least five extra hours each week for no pay to keep maternity services running.

During a typical working week, 87 per cent of midwives delay going to the toilet because they do not have enough time, and 77 per cent skip meals, including more than 25 per cent who do so always or most of the time.

More than half said that they feel dehydrated most or all of the time at work because they do not have enough time to get a drink, and 37 per cent never or rarely take the breaks they are entitled to.

The survey results are better than those received in 2016, but the RCM said it was disappointed that the 2020 findings show little improvement over four years.

In 2016, 94 per cent of midwives delayed using the toilet due to limited time, 48 per cent never or rarely took their breaks, 88 per cent skipped meals — including 44 per cent who did so always or most of the time — and 62 per cent felt dehydrated most or all of the time because they did not have time to drink.

RCM employment-relations advisor Alice Sorby said: “The physical and mental health of midwives, maternity-support workers and all NHS staff has never been more important, but sadly what the results of our member survey have revealed is there has been little improvement over the past four years.

“Covid-19 has undoubtedly increased the pressure on midwives, some of whom have been working additional hours unpaid just to keep maternity services open and running.

“We must break this vicious cycle by investing in staff in areas where there are shortages.”

Labour’s shadow health minister, Justin Madders, said that the responses to the survey were “deeply concerning” and showed how midwives are being “let down” by government failures to address chronic NHS workforce shortages – including a dearth of 2,500 midwives.

He added: “The government needs to come up with a credible staffing plan otherwise we risk losing many of these dedicated people to burnout.”

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