CUTBACKS are hitting maternity services across the country just as a baby boom takes off, a nursing union has claimed.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) warned the cut backs are coming at just the wrong time.

A spokeswoman said latest figures suggest that more than 700,000 babies were likely to be born in England this year, the highest figure since 1971.

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There were no figures for the North-East but the union said the average number of births per midwife has worsened in the North West, the West Midlands, London, and the South West. Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said there had been a baby boom for ten years but it was taking off once again.

She said: “The baby boom is restarting with renewed vigour. We are already at birth numbers that haven’t been seen for at least a couple of generations, probably not in the working life of any midwife practising today. Today’s midwives simply have never seen anything like it. The demand this is placing on the NHS is enormous.”

The union says that England is short of 5,000 full-time equivalent midwives. In a recent survey more than a quarter of UK heads of midwifery reported that their budget has been cut in the last 12 months. However a third of newly qualified midwives have not yet found a job, it was claimed.