AIMS Statement concerning the nationwide March With Midwives vigils taking place on November 21st 2021

Times are incredibly tough across the maternity services in the UK at the moment. AIMS would like to take this opportunity to thank every single member of the maternity staff teams across the UK, and all those who support them, for doing their best in the most difficult of circumstances.

As in many other areas of life, the Covid19 pandemic has shone a light on existing weaknesses in our maternity services as well as adding its own pressures. Most immediately, the pandemic situation, in addition to the effects of Brexit, creates a staffing crisis that we desperately need to get through together. We need well-supported maternity staff to be available to offer families the support they need, when and where they need it. It's not complicated, even if it seems particularly hard to achieve: well-supported staff are most likely to be able to support families well.

The March with Midwives vigils across the country this weekend will see service users standing in solidarity with maternity staff, and midwives in particular, to offer their moral support and to draw attention to the current crisis. This mass action offers an important commentary on how important midwives are to families in every single area of the UK and how keenly the current crisis is being felt.

The intention of the vigils sits well with AIMS' own longstanding call to action: as we frequently remind ourselves, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. As we know well in AIMS, raising awareness is the first step towards achieving change.

Urgent action is certainly needed to shore up what seems to be a maternity service that is losing staff at a catastrophic rate. The range of issues that have led to the current situation with regard to midwifery staffing have been well-documented1. But this is not a new problem. For too long, we have seen poor retention levels in midwifery: this is a service that seems unable to support its own staff, including our precious newly-qualified members of staff, with frequent reports of bullying. In England, this 'cultural problem' was a key focus of the Better Births Report (2016), and an issue which the ongoing Maternity Transformation Programme has been working to address, with a particular focus on improving leadership within midwifery and the maternity services more generally. AIMS continues to scrutinise the implementation progress of Better Births, in our role as 'critical friend' and as a member of the Stakeholder Council.

So for AIMS, we remember today that we are in the midst of a Maternity Transformation Programme, which continues. And we thank everyone participating in the vigils - including some of our Members and Volunteers - for reminding us why the work to improve the maternity services is so important. Together, we move forward.

AIMS Campaigns Team, November 15, 2021

Reference

  1. Common, Lisa (2021) ‘It Doesn’t Add Up’ First published as a guest editorial in Roy Lilley’s e-letter on 8 November 2021 https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Nothing-is-ever-easy.html?soid=1102665899193&aid=2Mr5DJFVePA and also available via quick link https://bit.ly/ItDoesntAddUp [last accessed 9/11/21]

AIMS supports all maternity service users to navigate the system as it exists, and campaigns for a system which truly meets the needs of all.

The AIMS Campaigns Team relies on Volunteers to carry out its work. If you would like to collaborate with us, are looking for further information about our work, or would like to join our team, please email campaigns@aims.org.uk.

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