Midwives, mothers and families took part in a vigil in Bonn Square calling for more support, saying they were exhausted and over-stressed.

Midwives up and down the country took part in the March with Midwives campaign saying maternity services are at 'breaking point' and that the industry's 'crisis' should be treated as a 'national emergency'.

Midwife Emma Hamblin spoke of gruelling shifts.

Oxford Mail: Student midwives

She said: “I want better care for midwives and for women. I recently had a baby myself and we had great care because as a midwife I knew all my rights. But I feel really concerned that people do not know what’s happening and how bad it is.

"I have seen it from the other side and I know that people do not get the care that they should get. It’s so pressured. We don’t get breaks, we don’t finish on time, we’re worn out."

Midwife Anna Torrance said maternity units are “really struggling” with "absolutely shocking" numbers of students leaving as soon as they have finished training.

"Then you get a lot of newly qualified midwives just not able to take the stress. And families are getting really poor care," she said.

The March with Midwives campaign is raising concerns about staffing levels, working conditions and the state of the service.

It is calling on the Government to listen to all staff and the people who use maternity services, to fund the emergency retention of staff, to support student training and reduce demands on staff.

Oxford Mail: Student midwives

London-based midwife Sarah Muggleton, 27, spoke of the tiring daily grind she has faced during her six-year career.

She told the crowd in central London: “I give every drop of my energy and emotion to hormonal and sometimes traumatised women so when I get home I have nothing more I can give to myself or my loved ones.

“I often have to skip lunch breaks as I do 12-and-a-half-hour shifts to try and achieve the basic levels of care required of me.

“I will be lucky to go to the toilet when I want.

“Don’t even get started on the pay.”

Earlier this month, data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) showed that the number of nurses and midwives leaving the professions has risen.

Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC chief executive and registrar, warned more departures could follow without further efforts to tackle the pressures on both occupations brought on by the pandemic.

Jon Skewes, of the Royal College of Midwives, referenced their own survey last month which showed that 57 per cent of midwives are looking to leave and the biggest group among them are those who have only been working for five years or less.

He said: “For years, maternity services have been operating with too few staff and inadequate resources.

“NHS Trusts and Boards have relied on the goodwill of staff, and their genuine love of what they do, to maintain services but staff are reaching the end of their tether.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We are committed to patient safety, eradicating avoidable harms and making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth.

“Midwives do an incredibly important job and we know how challenging it has been for those working during the pandemic.

“There are more midwives working in the NHS now than at any other time in its history and we are aiming to hire 1,200 more with a £95 million recruitment drive.

“The mental health and wellbeing of staff remains a key priority and the NHS continues to offer a broad range of support including through dedicated helplines and mental health and wellbeing hubs.”