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Only move maternity staff as last resort, Royal Colleges urge hospital CEOs

News 22 January 2021

Two leading Royal Colleges are urging hospitals not to redeploy staff away from maternity services except as a last resort to ensure care for women and their babies remains safe. The call comes in a joint letter from the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to NHS Trust and Board chief executives across the UK.  

The call comes in response to reports that some maternity staff are being pulled away to other parts of the NHS to support pandemic work. The Colleges stress that, unlike other parts of the NHS, maternity services require specialist staff whose skills cannot be replicated elsewhere in the NHS. Those services are already under-resourced and cannot afford to lose any more staff as demands on services remain unchanged. The Colleges have asked Trust and Board CEOs to keep staffing levels under review and, if maternity staff must be redeployed, to get those staff get back into maternity as soon as possible.  

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We recognise how much pressure hospitals are under right now and we understand that maternity staff need to play a part in the staffing response to the pandemic. However, there has to be a sense of balance and a sense of priority, for example finding an easy way to get maternity staff back doing their usual roles as soon as they are no longer needed or if there’s a staffing crisis in the maternity team.  

“We have already received a number of positive responses back from Trusts showing their commitment to maintaining a safe service and would urge others to follow suit. Fundamentally, it’s vital maternity staff can deliver a safe service and share their concerns if they feel that’s not the case.”  

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM, said: “We know that all parts of the NHS are under incredible strain right now – but that includes maternity services. Throughout the pandemic women have continued to have babies and maternity services have been there for them. Now, like everywhere else in the NHS, those services are seeing more women coming in with COVID, requiring additional support. That is why we are asking Trust and Board Chief Executives to ringfence maternity, to keep the specialist midwives, maternity support workers, obstetricians and anaesthetists where they are needed most.” 

Ends 

To contact the RCOG press office call +44 (0)7986 183167 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

Notes to editors

The joint RCM/RCOG letter to trust/board chief executives can be read at https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/trust-ceo-letter-18-01-21.pdf

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high-quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision. 

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.