Midwives to take to streets in bid to 'save services from total collapse'

Paula Cleary, organiser of the March for Midwives vigils

Paula Cleary, organiser of the March for Midwives vigils - Credit: Paula Cleary

Scores of midwives are set to take to the streets this weekend to highlight "soul-destroying" pressures they face on a day-to-day basis.

March for Midwives is the brainchild of a group led by mum-of-five Paula Cleary, a doula from March with 10 years of experience in the birthing service.

Mrs Cleary initially planned the demonstration as a one-woman vigil in the Fenland market town, but after sharing her plans on social media it spiralled and spiralled - turning into a national movement.

She said that now more than 60 different vigils are planned nationwide, including one in Norwich and one in King's Lynn, which will be held at 2pm on Sunday, November 21.

And each vigil is expecting scores of midwives, doulas and allies to highlight just how demanding their work has become, particularly following on from the Covid pandemic. 

Mrs Cleary, 45, said: "Things have been getting worse for midwives progressively over the past 10 years, to the point that more and more of them are having to be signed off work through sickness or exhaustion - the numbers are going through the roof.

"Something that really hit me this summer was an incident when I was helping an expectant couple who were advised to have a home birth. When the time came, they just couldn't get a midwife out at all. There was a time when this was a really rare occurrence, but it is happening more and more often.

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"This is just so terrifying for the families involved to go through."

Mrs Cleary said the pressures on midwives had only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which had placed more and more demand on them.

The protests will call for better funding for midwifery, a reduction in demands on staff and measures to help more people train to become midwives.

She said: "You don't have to be pregnant yourself to want to save maternity services from total collapse and mass exodus."

The Norwich demonstration will be held at The Forum while the King's Lynn event will be at The Walks.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson has said there are "record numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives working in the NHS".

They said the maternity workforce will be increased with a £95m recruitment drive to support recruitment of 1,200 more midwives.

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