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Midwifery apprenticeships could help address midwife shortage

‘Landmark’ degree apprenticeships will widen out access to midwifery, says RCM as UK’s first apprentices start training

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The UK’s first midwifery degree apprentices have now started their training, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has reported. The College welcomed the ‘landmark’ new route into midwifery, which it said would broaden access to the profession and lead to the same qualification as other routes – and could help to address the current severe shortage of midwives.

The College announced that apprenticeships, which were already up and running in England for maternity support workers, have now been created in England for midwives; their development was led by Skills for Health and Health Education England, with RCM support. A midwifery apprenticeship is open to people already employed in the NHS as a maternity support worker or as an adult nurse, and will combine on-the-job training with a national recognised qualification. Tuition fees are paid by the employer or government funding – and apprentices are also paid a salary for their employment.

The first students began their training yesterday at Greenwich University, and students who complete their apprenticeships will gain a midwifery degree as well as being fully qualified midwives. RCM added that, later this year, the University of West London and University of Bedford will start a further two midwifery apprenticeship courses.

Because these are degree-level apprenticeships, as well as completing the apprenticeship training, candidates will also have to satisfy the university’s requirements to be awarded their degree before they can register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and begin to practise. The College said employers and universities will ensure that their programmes are designed to allow apprentices to meet both those obligations.

RCM chief executive Gill Walton said: “This really is a landmark in UK midwifery and a cultural shift for midwifery training, offering a different route into the profession. At the start of this International Year of the Midwife, we called on governments to support the training and education of the maternity workforce, so it’s fitting that the first midwife apprentices are starting today.”

She added: “This widens out access and is a really positive addition to routes into midwifery. Although the number of midwives is England is increasing slowly we are still around 2,500 midwives short of the numbers needed. We need this kind of innovation around ways into midwifery if we are to see that shortage continue to fall. I wish those starting their courses today the best of luck with their new career.”

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