England is massively short of midwives. According to the most recent State of Maternity Services Report from the Royal College of Midwives, the country needs 2,600 extra midwives. You might think, therefore, that our Government would be doing all it could to encourage people to study to become midwives. Yet instead the government plans to replace bursaries for student midwives with loans.
As part of the statements put out by the Chancellor in his big spending review last November, was the revelation that bursaries would be abolished for those set to start their midwifery training next year.
These bursaries — on average, worth several thousands of pounds — help those studying midwifery (and also nursing) to pay their bills while they train. They will go, to be replaced by debt, repayable for up to 30 years after graduation.
From next year student midwives will also get billed for tuition fees for the first time, which at the moment are £9,000. And of course tuition fees are likely to rise in the future too.
A newly qualified midwife could start their career owing over £60,000 after they complete their three year course.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:
"Loading down the midwives of the future with vast new debts is a bad idea, and just plain wrong. We must keep up this fight and get the government to change course."
RCMs director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes said on news of the decision back in November; “Today’s announcement is extremely worrying. There has been no consultation on the proposed changes and therefore no opportunity to highlight the huge and negative impact that this will have on midwifery student numbers.
“The cuts are likely to deter many potential students from entering the profession which is not good news for the future of midwifery in the UK. Cutting public funding to train frontline staff in an already struggling and understaffed maternity service just doesn’t make sense.
“It’s already deeply frustrating for midwives that they often cannot provide the quality of maternity care that women and their babies deserve because they don’t have the time and are so short staffed as demand on maternity services increases.
“Today’s announcement is another blow to the profession. The axing of student bursaries will inevitably make midwifery an unattainable and less attractive profession to thousands of potentially excellent midwives that our maternity services so badly need.”
Pat Harrington, of Solidarity commented, "The prospect of long years of debt is hardly likely to attract people to the profession. We need more Midwives to provide the women of our country with the support they need at a vital time. The government is once again thinking about short term cuts rather than long term benefits."