Midwife shortages place increasing value on maternity support workers


Maternity support workers (MSWs) have an increasingly valuable role to play as the midwife staffing crisis worsens, according to a leading maternity expert at Birmingham City University (BCU).

School of Nursing and Midwifery

Birmingham City University

The Royal College of Midwives has repeatedly expressed its concern at what it regards as chronic levels of understaffing and has warned of a midwife exodus because of poor working conditions.

Now Charlotte Parnham, Maternity Pathway Lead at BCU, says it is time to “shine a light on the incredible work that MSWs do every day and celebrate their unique and vital role” as maternity services grow increasingly dependent on their knowledge, experience and support.

As a result, she has helped organise BCU’s first-ever MSW conference, which takes place at the university’s City South campus on Wednesday 30 August, 2023.

“MSWs support not only midwives and the wider multi-disciplinary team but also women/birthing people, their babies and families,” said Parnham, who is also a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Course Lead within the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

“They are often the person that can spend time with service users to support them with their transition to parenting. They are able to learn and perform a range of skills, such as venepuncture, maternal and neonatal observations and infant feeding support.

“Some MSWs are also highly trained in emergency situations and are able to perform skills such as neonatal resuscitation. Their wide skill set and caring nature improve the care that women/birthing people and their babies receive.”

BCU has played a leading role in the development of MSWs. It runs two MSW apprenticeships and has supported the training of MSWs from seven different NHS Trusts.

“The apprenticeship programmes provide MSWs with opportunities to develop academically, professionally and personally,” said Parnham.

“It also opens the door to other opportunities, such as speaking at webinars, networking, celebrating the role and career development support.

“MSWs at BCU can learn in state-of-the-art skills and simulation rooms. We have a bespoke midwifery room with a birthing mannequin. This supports MSWs to develop their confidence and competence in a safe environment, before practising them in the clinical environment.”

Parnham hopes the MSW conference will build on that work.

“I want to give MSWs a platform to share their journeys and experiences,” she said.

“The conference will give MSWs the opportunity to network, learn about specialist roles and be inspired. Additionally, I hope it helps other attendees learn more about the MSW role and career development in England.” 

For more information about the conference, including tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-maternity-support-worker-conference-birmingham-city-university-tickets-566922439277

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