A midwife from ‘down under’ left a comment on a previous entry suggesting that the attitude of those who manage midwives may be responsible for the difficulties that exist in retention and recruitment. This started me off musing and so I decided to put down my own personal perspective on the staffing issues within the maternity services. What this will probably become is a consolidation of previous rants and musings and a smattering of references to research and articles. I was going to entitle the entry ‘Why midwives leave’, but a piece of research published in 2002 was entitled ‘Why do midwives leave?’ so I abandoned that idea, I wouldn’t want to be accused of plagerism. So, what did the authors of the research discover?Phase One revealed that making the decision to leave midwifery was often a protracted and painful process. The introduction of grading, and the restructuring of management caused a change in work ethos and atmosphere, further perpetuated by a series of increasingly stressful demands, both within the job itself and the working environment. This analysis painted a depressing picture of a group of very committed professional women, struggling over a protracted period of time, within an environment of increasing confrontation and stress.
Do I agree with this synopsis? Of course. It does have many of the topics I grumble and grouse about ad nauseum. It start with how it takes midwives a long time to finally up sticks, anyone who reads this on-line diary regularly will know that this midwife is constantly wittering on about looking for a new career, wanting to retire or just throw in the towel.
The pay-scale we now embrace, Agenda for Change, has caused many problems, not least the opportunities it handed to the employers for re-wording contracts to ensure that they hold all the cards and that there is no room for any negotiation, or discussion about managerial decisions. I offer as evidence the ‘rotational’ aspect of my new contract. When I was originally employed it stated that my job was ‘ Community Midwife’, with the implementation Agenda for Change it changed to Rotational Midwife. Low and behold, when it suited their purposes I was rotated to a unit 15 miles away. When I objected and pointed out that I had not signed my new contract, as I did not accept it, the Head of Midwifery was delighted to educate me into the intricacies of a section of employment law which says that if a majority of the staff sign a new contact then all staff are governed by it.
I had started the above with the intention of producing a truly insightful entry. Instead I am prematurely blogging as, once again, my frustration and annoyance is erupting. In a previous ‘rant’ entry I mentioned that 2 of our team are leaving, management knew 5 months ago. The team members leave in 1 month, and yesterday we were told that they would not be replaced for at least 4 months. Add to this the team member we have who is on long term sick, has been for 4 months, is not expected back anytime soon and there has been no cover for during her absence and…………in 3 weeks I will be having an operation which will see me off for at least 8 weeks. This is leaving the community extemely short-staffed.The problem is that the work never decreases. The women still need antenatal care, homebirths and emergencies will still happen, new Mums and babies will still need visits, antenatal classes will still need to be facilitated but our team will be 50% understaffed, and all of the shortfall was known about well in advance, but nothing was done about it.
So hurrah for the Lib Dem’s and their call to the government to ‘stop burying their heads in the sand’. The Daily Mail has pulled out all the stops and listed the shortcomings and failures within the maternity services and the Daily Telegraph has stopped midwife bashing today, and shown sympathy, as they highlight that ‘a critical shortage of staff…..has increased pressure on midwives to breaking point.’ Come on, let’s all shout and, who knows, the situation might improve and women will receive what the government has promised and midwives would like to provide.