A school closure in Dundee

Marlyn Glen

19 June 2012

A school closure has recently occurred in Dundee which has closed its doors to new entrants to the midwifery course at Dundee University.

This academic year’s new intake of students has been its last.

 Two other Scottish Universities , Stirling and Glasgow Caledonian , have also been forced to close down their undergraduate midwifery courses, when the Scottish Government cut the numbers of training places by almost half –from 183 to 100.

The reasons given include a lack of sufficient posts after graduation, and an “over-production”  in a profession that’s traditionally been well-staffed in Scotland.

However, midwives see things differently.

Their professional body, the Royal College of Midwives say, : “ Scotland’s midwifery workforce is ageing. What we need to see therefore is not a downward trend in the number of new student midwife places, but an upward trend.”

Midwives are eligible to retire at 55, and the report Midwifery 2020 warns that by then some 40 per cent of midwives in Scotland will have retired.

The age profile of midwifery staff in NHS Tayside bears this figure out :

14 per cent are already in the age band 55-59

18 per cent are between the ages of 50 and 54, with 23 per cent in the age group 45-49.

The prospect of shortages in midwife care is compounded by the rising birth rate.

In Dundee, for example, there has been an overall upward trend in the number of births in Dundee in the past decade, rising from over 1,400 in 2001 to over 1,700 in 2010.

 And some women in the city are postponing children till later in life, with 39 women in the city over the age of 40 gave birth last year

All of this should require more not less midwives, but in recent trends, over the past three and a half years, the number of midwifery staff in NHS Tayside has fallen by 8.

The threat of shortages are acknowledged by the Scottish Government which concedes that  "There will be a potential under-supply in the future assuming that all the variables remain constant”

2021 is forecast to be the crunch year if things go on unchecked.

This issue deserves to be looked at from the broader perspective of overall Scottish Government spending, and in particular the 5-year council tax freeze.

Taxing Scotland estimates that it costs the Scottish taxpayer £155 million to freeze the council tax of the wealthiest 10 per cent in Scotland for 5 years .  ( http://bit.ly/wAGfkF )

A council tax freeze aimed primarily at making the rich its chief beneficiaries has consequences such as cuts in health spending, in this instance the ending of midwifery courses at Dundee University

Compare too the midwifery school closures with  the manner in which the Scottish Government has supported a jobs decision taken by the £200,000- a year head of Scottish Enterprise, Lena Wilson.

With full blessing of Alex Salmond, Ms. Wilson has been permitted to work, in addition to her post with Scottish Enterprise,  one day a month for the FTSE-100 company Internek.

Two points emerge here.

Firstly , there should be no extra job for someone  in charge of a public body such as Scottish Enterprise whose priority is the revival of Scotland’s troubled industries – “ it’s the economy, stupid,” to quote a famous political slogan.

Secondly, for working 1 day per month -12 days a year, the head of Scottish Enterprise will receive £55,000 a year.

It costs on average £12,000 a year to train a midwife over a three year midwifery course.

So the earnings from the £55,000 12-days a year additional job are more than the cost of training 4  midwives for one year of their course.

Allowing a highly-paid public servant to take on another highly-paid part-time job while thousands of nursing and midwifery posts have been cut isn’t most people’s idea of fairness in Scottish society.



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