Structural funding challenges in maternity services exposed by COVID-19, says Royal Colleges

on 09 September 2021

Two Royal Colleges have said more than decade of under-investment and an over-reliance on committed staff has been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, during a speech at the Baby Lifeline Maternity Safety Conference.

CEO Gill Walton from the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists President Dr Edward Morris called for sustainable investment in maternity services and staff, as well as positive cultural change that puts safety at the centre of care.

“There is investment in services and in training coming and this is welcome, but much more is needed to make up for decades of under-investment. The cracks in maternity are now clearly visible. We have seen real, terrible, and tragic events emerge in our maternity services over recent years. These have shown the human cost of getting it wrong for women, their families and for staff, and the financial cost to trusts in pay-outs, which investment could have prevented.

“We must have cultures that foster, champion and live and breathe safety. It must become the DNA that runs through everything we do, every tiny action, every tiny decision. This needs investment, it needs commitment, and it needs doing now,” Gill Walton said.

The Royal College leaders also highlighted the need for stronger maternity leadership, ensuring their voices are heard for women and staff.

“We are pleased that in recent months, the UK Government has committed a large amount of funding to maternity services – both for a new workplace planning tool and a project to reduce brain injuries in childbirth. We feel confident that this investment will go a huge way to improving the quality of care provided to pregnant women and their babies, however we also recognise that our maternity services are running on empty and something urgently needs to change.

“It’s clear maternity units are bowing under the pressure of reduced staffing levels, inadequate health facilities and the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which will test their ability to provide the best care possible to pregnant women and their families. We are calling for sustained investment in maternity services and staff, as women deserve to give birth in a safe and supported environment,” Dr Edward Morris said.

The Baby Lifeline Maternity Safety Conference is was held at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Centre. Sessions included themes on women-centred care, learning from the COVID-19 pandemic and patient-driven change.