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Health: Midwives warn of `serious' shortage

MIDWIVES yesterday delivered a petition of 90,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street and warned of a major crisis in the profession unless the Government takes swift action.

Protesters from the Royal College of Midwives said the profession was at its lowest ebb ever. Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Women could be in danger. There is just one midwife dealing with three or four women in labour."

Ms Davis dismissed rumours that the Government is considering granting midwives and nurses a 17 per cent pay rise by the end of the current Parliament. "Promises of jam tomorrow will not save the midwifery service," she said.

Since 1995 there has been a drop of 2,500 in the number of midwives registering to practice with the UK Central Council for Nursing Midwifery and Health Visiting. Latest figures show 32,803 midwives are registered, the lowest figure ever recorded.

A department of health spokesman said it was aiming to attract 15,000 nurses and midwives into the profession."On pay we have told the independent pay review body starting salaries should be raised."