Tomorrow, 13th October 2014, is an historic date in the history of midwifery, for tomorrow midwives are striking for the first time since the profession became regulated. Shock horror, women will be left unattended in labour; babies will die, just a couple of scare-mongering comments I have read in response to articles discussing the industrial action. Wrong. Midwives are ‘striking’ from 7am until 11am on Monday. The strike action may affect elective caesarean sections and routine appointments, other services i.e labour wards, birth centres and the on-call provision for homebirths will be unaffected. For the rest of the week midwives will be working to rule, in other words they will take meal breaks and finish work on time.
Well, how much of this will happen? The usual level of staffing for births will happen, as for the rest………it is unlikely that there will be an adherence to the work to rule.
Why are Midwives joining in the action? The pay review body recommended a 1% pay rise, the government decided not to take this advice. At the same time as this has happened the cost to remain registered as a midwife (or nurse) has increased by 31.6%, with a further 20% rise in the pipeline. The pensions contributions have risen from 6.8% to 9.5%. Those are just a couple of the financial reasons but for me, why would I take action*?
I’m sick, tired and fed-up with the way the maternity services rely upon ‘good will’. A joint staff-side survey in 2012 discovered that two-thirds of midwives work more than 2 hours extra each week and, of those responding, only 2.9% have recompense for the overtime. Many Trusts now operate a 12-hour shift system. Staff working these should expect to have a break, in my experience this doesn’t occur, midwives work through, constantly on their feet and making life or death decisions in frequently stressful situations. The community scenario is often equally debilitating. A community midwife can expect to work all day and then, if on call, may find herself continuing to work through to the following morning. This is not necessarily due to a homebirth happening, s/he can be called in to cover a birth unit or the labour ward. A working day approaching 24 hours is not unusual and this is totally due to ‘a lack of NHS funding and a national shortage of 2,300 midwives‘. This is why I support the action. Yes, I would enjoy a pay rise but far more than that I am calling for an increase in staffing levels. I want the maternity services to be safe for women, babies and care providers.