David Cameron is under fire after new research revealed a fall in midwifery training places since May last year. The Prime Minister pledged before the election that he would increase their numbers by 3,000.

But a study by the Nursing Standard has shown that the number entering training this year is expected to fall 3.6 per cent. Six out of the10 strategic health authorities in England plan to cut student numbers.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "We need at least 4,700 more midwives, not less."

The health minister, Anne Milton, says that the number of trainee midwives will depend on the birth-rate, which is falling.

"We expect a sustained increase in the number of new midwives during the next few years," she said.