With midwives overstretched to the point of not being able to take breaks on shift, a group of Salisbury mums and NHS workers took part in a march this weekend.

Salisbury was one of many towns and cities up and down the UK to hold a March with Midwives vigil on Sunday (November 21).

Around 80 people attended Queen Elizabeth Gardens as part of the UK Vigil for Maternity Crisis.

The group included many midwives and staff from the Salisbury Hospital Maternity Unit, and other local units, mums, dads, expectant couples, grandparents, children and babies.

Organisers in Salisbury say midwives are in crisis, not being able to take food or toilet breaks, working all day, and then coming in to help during the night, and then having to work the next day because there is no one available to cover the shift.

They are calling on the Government to reduce the pressures placed on staff, enable workers to work more flexibly or have help with childcare, to encourage take-up of training through offering bursaries, and to fund emergency retention of midwives, as students cannot train if they have no midwives to mentor them on their placements.

‘March with Midwives’ is a grassroots movement set up by parents and maternity workers.

They have set up a Change.org petition to place pressure on the Government to invest into maternity services.

At last count, the petition had more than 109,000 signatures.

A 'demoralising and overstretched workforce'

The Royal College of Midwives warned this summer of a "midwife exodus", finding that more than half of the midwives that took part in its annual member experiences of work survey said they were considering leaving their job, with 57 per cent saying they would leave the NHS in the next year.

Of those midwives who either had left or were considering leaving, more than 80 per cent were concerned about staffing levels and two-thirds were not satisfied with the quality of care they are currently able to deliver.

This summer, an advisory Expert Panel informed the Government that staffing across the whole of maternity services "requires improvement", with "persistent gaps in all maternity professions".

The "current recruitment initiatives" do not adequately consider the "demoralised and overstretched workforce" and do not "adequately value professional experience and wellbeing," the panel said.

'At the heart' of the NHS

Joanne Hayward, Director of Maternity and Neonatal Services at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, praised the resilience and work of midwives in managing a very heavy workload in the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: "Our midwives and whole maternity team are at the very heart of the services we provide at Salisbury Hospital.

"The maternity team support mothers and families 24 hours a day, 52 weeks of the year and have done so ever since the NHS was founded in 1948.

"Midwives are there supporting mothers and families throughout the ups and downs of pregnancy and childbirth and it is a huge privilege to be at a mothers side at such an incredibly important moment in their lives.

"The past couple of years have been very challenging for our team as they have managed through the pandemic and experienced a very heavy workload. Yet their resilience and dedication has been demonstrated time and again."

Get more Salisbury news

You can also like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date, as well as signing up for one of our newsletters.

If you want online news with fewer ads, unlimited access and reader rewards - plus a chance to support our local journalism - find out more about registering or a digital subscription.

Email newsdesk@salisburyjournal.co.uk with your comments, pictures, letters and news stories.