Midwives in England are working around 100,000 extra unpaid hours every week, new research has suggested.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said its survey of 4000 members painted a "deeply worrying" picture of workplace conditions and the impact on safety in maternity services.
Almost nine in 10 of those polled said they had worked additional unpaid hours, with a quarter working at least 5 hours or more unpaid in the survey week. The RCM estimated that meant midwives in England worked 100,000 extra unpaid hours during the first week of March when the survey was held.
Dr Suzanne Tyler, executive director at the RCM, said: "Report after report have made a direct connection between staffing levels and safety – yet the midwife shortage is worsening and we still have no NHS workforce plan to address it. Staff are desperate to plug the gaps, and they are doing [so], but they are at the limits of their endurance.
"The Chancellor has previously agreed with us about the lack of staff and need for investment in maternity services. Now is the time to put his hand in the Treasury pocket and give maternity services the funding that is so desperately needed; for the sake of women using them and the staff caring for them."
Maternity Services 'Consistently Understaffed'
The RCM said the survey also showed maternity services were "consistently understaffed", which was hitting safe staffing levels. Almost nine out of 10 respondents said their maternity units were not staffed safely in the week of the survey.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The NHS is already one of the safest places to give birth in the world and we are grateful to all midwives and maternity support workers for what they do. We have invested £165 million a year since 2021 to grow the maternity workforce and are promoting careers in midwifery by increasing training places by up to 3650 over the past four years."