Births in England up again

26th February 2013

It will come as no surprise to midwives working in England that the baby boom in their part of the UK is still firing on all cylinders, according to the latest figures released today by the Office for National Statistics.

The numbers, for the third quarter of 2012, show that 177,700 babies were born in England in July, August and September of last year. That is up 900 on the previous year. Put all the first nine months together and there were 520,400 live births in England between January and September 2012: up 6500 on 2011.

We can now be almost certain that 2012 will see a rise in live births on 2011, making it the biggest year for births in England since 1971. We may possibly see it break through the 700,000 mark.

Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland suggest birth numbers there have stopped rising, but remain high by recent standards. In Scotland, for example, there were 14,700 live births in the third quarter of 2012; down 500 on the previous year. In the first nine months of last year there were 700 fewer live births north of the border than in 2011.

In Wales there were 9000 live births in the quarter – the same as last year. For the first nine months as a whole there were 100 fewer live births than in 2011. As all these figures are to the nearest 100, that essentially points to a broadly unchanged birth figure for Wales.

In Northern Ireland there were 6300 live births in the quarter. This was down 200 on 2011. Overall, the first nine months of 2012 saw 300 fewer live births here than in 2011.

The RCM continues to lobby politicians, particularly in England, about the need for more midwives. There is evidence that they are starting to listen, with full-time equivalent (FTE) midwife numbers on their way up. In the last three months for which we have figures (September to November 2012), for example, the number of FTE midwives in the NHS in England rose by almost 600.

Also in this academic year we have the highest number of training places for people wanting to become midwives on record.

We are being listened to. We just need the government to redouble its efforts. Yes, the shortage in England may have been cut from more than 6000 to below 5000, but that is still a truly colossal figure. Firm action is needed over several years if we are ever to turn this supertanker around.