Next month, NHS midwives across England will vote on taking industrial action against their employers. It is the first time in the RCM's 133-year history that we have asked our members to do this. It is not something we take lightly, but midwives and maternity support workers are at breaking point.
Our number-crunching, for the year 2011, suggests that England is short of as many as 5,000 midwives. Progress on midwife numbers since the turn of the century reminds me of the tortoise and the hare. I just hope that, as in the case of that fable, the tortoise ends up winning.
We are in an age of austerity, of course. But the government often boasts that the NHS budget has been protected, and surely if there is any group that should be shielded from the brunt of any cuts it is newborn babies.
Each £20-poorer attendee at the heavily marketed mecca the Baby Show found themselves unwittingly linked to the arms trade and exposed to some highly contentious advice from unregulated self-styled baby gurus.
Last week, we learned that not only are vast swathes of the general public feeling nervous about the Conservative's Healthcare Reform Bill, but so are healthcare professionals. Several healthcare unions have started to sharpen their scalpels.
I really believe that if midwives are able to to really make sure that women understand what their choices mean for them and their baby -- the risks and benefits -- then far fewer women will choose elective caesareans.