The government must give back bursaries to student midwives in England to meet its commitment to tackle the shortage of midwives in the NHS, the Royal College of Midwives has warned. The RCM has discovered that nearly half of all student midwives are so worried about their finances and debts that they have considered leaving their midwifery courses.
The College revealed to delegates at the RCM conference in Manchester this morning the ‘worrying’ results of its survey, conducted over six weeks in May and June among student midwives from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It questioned student members about their current financial situation, levels of debt accrued to become a midwife and the impact of the removal of the student midwife bursary in England; it asked for some demographic information, as well as about their living situation, financial support they were receiving, and about their financial confidence; and it also asked the students about deferring or leaving their courses. Answers from the 1,197 who responded showed that:
- £41,000 is the average amount of debt with which a student midwife expects to graduate, but some have debts totalling £100,000.
- £562 every month is the average amount of money that a student midwife is taking from friends or family to cover their day-to-day living costs.
- 93.43% of student midwives in England currently receiving a bursary say it isn’t enough for them to live on.
- £409 is the average amount of money that a student midwife in England who is still in receipt of a bursary is short for their bills every month.
- 50% of student midwives who apply for a grant to help with childcare have their application rejected; more than a third of midwives with caring responsibilities are getting no financial support.
The College pointed out to delegates that the government previously committed to bringing thousands more midwives into the NHS, and that removing the bursary for student midwives goes directly against this pledge. RCM general secretary and chief executive Gill Walton argued: “To burden student midwives with large amounts of debt that they will struggle to pay with a modest NHS salary is unjust and frankly just wrong. We should be doing all we can to make working in the NHS as attractive as possible, but the current system and the removal of the bursary is making student midwives think about leaving before they have even begun their midwifery careers.
“Furthermore it’s deterring potentially great students from considering a career in midwifery. This is particularly worrying given the large shortage of midwives in England and sits at odds with the Government’s commitment to bring 3,000 more midwives into the NHS.
“Our student midwife members have told us they worry so much about money and debt that it is affecting their studies on a day-to-day basis and this is simply unacceptable at a time in their lives when they should be relatively care free and able to concentrate on their studies. This is why the RCM has consistently opposed the removal of the bursary for student midwives in England.”
She went on: “This is why I am repeating the RCM’s call for this Government to give our student midwives their bursaries back, so that we can attract more not fewer people into the profession.
“The Government should be doing all it can to ensure that NHS maternity services right across the UK are future proofed, ensuring there are enough midwives to deliver safe high quality care to women and their babies.”