Wales

Student midwife numbers in Wales hit 'record high'

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The number of new midwives in Wales is set to reach a record high after a 40% boost in student training places.

There had been fears the sector faced a shortage as a large number of midwives approached retirement.

But Helen Rogers, the Royal College of Midwives' director for Wales, said TV shows like One Born Every Minute had increased demand on student places.

The Welsh Government said this September's intake would be a "record high".

In September, 134 student midwives will start training after the Welsh Government commissioned a 40% increase in places as part of a £95m package to boost NHS recruitment.

The number of registered midwives working in the Welsh NHS has steadily increased since 2013, reaching 1,333 in September 2016.

But training places for students had remained static since the start of the 2014 academic year - with 93 places for the whole of Wales.

Ms Rogers said the increase in student places was great news for the profession, which the RCM had warned was on the brink of a shortage with about 35% of midwives nearing retirement.

She said while demand for midwifery had always been high, shows like Channel 4's One Born Every Minute and BBC One's Call the Midwife had led to an increase in student applications in recent years, with about 500 applications for every 20 places.

Cardiff University received 712 applications for 38 midwifery places starting in September 2017, while Swansea University had 504 applications for its 33 places.

While a bursary for student nurses and midwives has been scrapped in England, in Wales it has been maintained - provided the student remains in Wales for two years after they qualify.

Ms Rogers said the issue was now ensuring placements were ready for the influx in students and maintaining the numbers in future years.

"We have seen numbers yo-yo - even if we get loads of students, it puts a strain on the service as they need mentoring and placements," she said.

"If we are increasing the numbers in a sustainable way then that is great, we are showing we do need these midwives, we need them to be put into training now and we need these numbers maintained."

Ms Rogers said the demand on hospital departments meant women were often seen by more than one midwife, leading to continuity of care issues.

"They are often pulled out of the community to go into a busy hospital department; that is not desirable or appropriate," she said.

The Welsh Government said the number of student places for training in midwifery this September were the highest on record.

A spokeswoman said: "The numbers are decided upon following a long-established process based on robust workforce planning each year."

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