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Depleting midwifery workforce will impact safety of staff and services - INMO
Press Release 16.11.23


The annual All-Ireland Midwifery Conference is being jointly hosted by the INMO and the Royal College of Midwives Northern Ireland today Thursday 16th November in Monaghan.

Issues to be discussed include the challenges facing midwives north and south due to staffing deficits and the increasing rate of cesarian sections.   

In response to a recent INMO survey, the INMO states that its members expressed difficulty with the increases in their workload, as well as their ability to spend adequate time with people in their care, with 88% of respondents stating they currently were understaffed most of the time, indicating that this had a negative effect on their ability to provide safe care and give adequate attention to those in need of maternity and midwifery services.  

Recruitment and retention of midwives was also noted to be a challenge for staffing, according to the INMO, with 72% of respondents stating they had considered leaving midwifery in the past twelve months, and 48% of those citing workplace stress as the number one reason.

Given the strong emphasis on capacity and resources related by the survey respondents, the INMO said it is “unconscionable” to introduce restrictions to recruitment at this time considering that there are over 800 midwifery vacancies at present. Our 19 maternity hospitals are unable to maintain the Birth rate plus recommended level of 1 midwife to 29.5 births.

In relation to the survey and the event, INMO Director of Professional Services, Tony Fitzpatrick said:

“The results of this survey demonstrate the very significant impact that understaffing is already having on midwives in Ireland and the people in their care, and this has a direct impact on the levels of safety and choice that can be offered in maternity services. The effect of further depleting the midwifery workforce will negatively impact both midwives and the invaluable services they provide.

“In terms of its potential impact on the quality and safety of maternity care in Ireland, the INMO absolutely condemns and considers utterly unconscionable that the HSE decision would introduce a moratorium for midwifery at a time when have over 800 vacant midwifery positions, and frontline midwives are attempting to provide quality care and fill the gaps that already exist.”

INMO President Karen McGowan said: 

“Ireland is a small country with an agile workforce that should be aiming to become a world leader in the quality of care in maternity and midwifery services. We have a highly-skilled, educated, and dedicated workforce who are eager to improve the quality and range of services available for childbirth in Ireland, and it is important that we learn from their experience and expertise.  

“Our members want to provide services that are best suited to the needs and decisions of those in their care. This means expanding the range of services available to provide a choice of community-based care, home births, or midwifery-led clinics, and supporting women’s choices. 

“Maternity and midwifery services are areas of growing expertise and knowledge, and it’s vital that we invest in growing and retaining this workforce to ensure we can keep up with the clinical and professional developments in these services that mean so much to those who use them, rather than attempting to claw back desperately needed funds and resources.”


Notes to editors

Burnout, stress, and intention to leave

72% of respondents stated they had considered leaving midwifery in the past twelve months.

The majority of those midwives who said they had considered leaving the profession in the last twelve months cited as their number 1 reason for leaving workplace stress (48.16%) and feeling undervalued (24.75%)

55% of respondents stated they did not have a good work-life balance.

Breaks and leave

62% of respondents stated there were issues with taking annual leave

64% stated they did not get to take a full lunch break away from the ward,

31% stated they were always or usually able to leave work on time

Services and staffing

The vast majority of respondents expressed concerns with staffing and workload.

90% of respondents stated that their workload had increased in the last 12 months, while 80% stated the amount of time they were able to spend with people in their care had reduced

88% stated they were understaffed most of the time

79% stated they were overwhelmed with how much work they had to do

82% of respondents stated the recommended midwife-to-birth ratio of 1:29.5 was not being achieved in their workplace.

94% of respondents felt women need more community midwifery care options, with 9

4% stating women needed the option of attending a midwife-led unit, and 96% stating they wanted to see community midwifery expanded into primary care.

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Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (Cumann Altrai agus Ban Cabhrach na hEireann). The Whitworth Building, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7. T:+353 1 664 0600 E:inmo@inmo.ie