Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust had more than a dozen fewer midwives in December than it did a year earlier, according to new figures.
NHS Digital figures show the equivalent of 236.7 full-time midwives were working at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in December 2021 — 13.1 fewer than 249.8 at the same point in 2020.
In 2019 there were the equivalent of 254.6 full-time midwives working for the trust's two predecessors.
Full-time equivalent measures the proportion of full-time hours an employee is contracted to work, meaning the figures are likely to be lower than the actual headcount of staff — some of whom may work part time.
Gill Walton, chief executive of the RCM, a trade union for midwives, warned: “England is still more than 2,000 midwives short of where we need to be and that simply isn’t good enough.
"While we welcome attempts to train and recruit new midwives, this Government is doing nothing to stop the experienced and qualified ones from leaving.
“At the same time as demands on services and the pressures on maternity staff are rising, staff numbers are going down. Despite the often-heroic work of midwives and others to try to plug the gaps, this is putting the quality of care and the safety of women and babies at risk.”
A spokesperson for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Staffing pressures are recognised within the trust and these challenges are not unique to Bedfordshire Hospitals, as many maternity units across the country are experiencing similar pressures.
“There has been an increase in the establishment of midwives and we have proactively developed a pathway for recruiting midwives, including international recruitment campaigns.
“Attracting and retaining the best talent is a key priority for us. We will shortly have a deputy head of midwifery for workforce in place, whose role purely focuses on the development, recruitment and retention of staff in our maternity services.
“Furthermore, we have a comprehensive workforce plan in place, involving a wholescale analysis of workforce information aiming to ensure there are sufficient numbers of staff both now and in the future.”
Across England, there were the equivalent of 337 fewer full-time midwives working for the NHS in December 2021 than at the same point in 2020.
It means there are now 22,192 full-time midwives working on maternity wards nationally.
Despite a drop in the number of midwives working for the NHS last year, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, a regulator for the profession, says that registrations for new midwives to the organisation have continued to rise over the last few years.
Almost 40,000 midwives eligible to practice in the UK were on its books as of September 2021.
The NMC did acknowledge that a "faster pace of growth is needed to meet rising demand" for midwifery services.
In March 2021, NHS England announced a recruitment drive for maternity staff, promising £95 million to be spent on recruiting 1,200 midwives and 100 obstetricians.
They said that NHS England is investing a further £127 million into maternity services, most of which is earmarked for recruitment, leadership development and retention.