Allison Ewing: Midwives' job plight is going unnoticed

Attention must be drawn to the desperate state of midwifery staffing levels in some parts of Scotland.

I am full of admiration for the teaching unions who manage to get newspaper and television coverage of the scandalous situation of graduate teachers without jobs. However, I have yet to see any media coverage of the fact that most midwifery students who graduate in Scotland do not have a post to go to. This is despite the Scottish Government's previous commitment to provide a year of guaranteed employment after graduation. For the few that get that year, they are still usually unemployed after it finishes.

The "big fib" we are told is that "Scotland has too many midwives" and that they are being trained to fill the shortage in England. The truth is that these numbers of student places were commissioned to fill available posts and these posts no longer exist.

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With the advent of 12-hour shift systems, employers can reduce the number of full-time posts by approximately 20 per cent as they only have two instead of three shifts to cover in the 24-hour period.

These 12-hour shifts are often worked without breaks and midwives are often working over their contracted hours,leaving them exhausted and demoralised but too afraid to speak out. Midwives are already following Iain Duncan Smith's advice and travelling far and wide to secure employment. One midwife I know travels from south Glasgow to RIE to work a 12-hour shift, making at least a 14-hour day of work.

However, many of these posts are temporary contracts, and the hapless midwife finds herself continually reapplying. Unfortunately, even these temporary contracts are being axed in one NHS board. Only a minority of the midwifery staff are on permanent contracts and the rest have been told that they will only be able to get locum/bank work.

Do your female readers and their partners really want to be looked after by staff fearful and stressed about their employment situation, or by a sufficient amount of staff who are happy and secure in their work?