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Working for the NHS

Working for the NHSHave you considered a career with the NHS? One NHS midwife describes what it's like working for the UK's biggest health care provider.

About Rebecca

Rebecca studied Direct Entry Midwifery for three years at King’s College London . She now works as a midwife in a low risk birth centre at St. Thomas’ hospital, in London.

The job

'I look after women when they come into the hospital in labour. Depending on the shifts, I will stay with the patient and help deliver the baby. I then look after women post-natally for up to 24 hours after the birth.

Because I work in a low risk centre, I don’t work with a doctor.'

Why the NHS?

'When I first qualified I had the opportunity to work in the private sector or for the NHS. It was a difficult decision because you hear so many positive things about the private sector but, I’m glad I chose the NHS.

There’s a lot of support because there are more people around you. You also get experience of pretty much everything.

When you qualify, you need to practise new skills like suturing. If I was working privately, I might not have the client base to consolidate these sorts of skills.

The NHS also offers a very good pension scheme.'


'This can vary. Ideally, you should just be giving one-to-one care to a woman in active labour. At early labour, you can look after more than one woman. It would be an incredibly rare occasion to have two women in your care in active labour at the same time. You don’t really hear of that. Because of the workload, you have to prioritise.

There is normally one person in charge who will manage the midwives.
At the end of the day it’s a high-pressure job. You keep up for the first year because of the adrenalin and you’re learning new things all the time so it’s quite exciting. Once you get past that, it is very tiring and can be quite stressful at times.'

Shift patterns

'Full-timers work 13 shifts every four weeks. Part-timers work 10 shifts every four weeks. Six or seven of these will be unsocial.

Each shift is 12.5 hours with one hour break. Shifts can be days, nights (unsocial) and at weekends. Everyone does a certain ratio of unsocial hours so that it’s fair. On average you will work two weekends per month.

There’s two shifts, a day one running from 7:45am – 8:15pm and a night one from 7:45pm – 8:15am so that there is a half an hour overlap with the previous shift for a handover.

If we don’t get time to take a break, we will be given time owing.'


'The NHS is probably better than most at being able to accommodate changes in shift patterns. If you want to change your hours, you must give advanced notice.

If you are pregnant, there is a legal consideration for the NHS to consider any request for a change of hours. However, whilst you will be given work, it may not be in an area you wanted. This is because the shifts may not be compatible with your new circumstances for instance.'

Promotion opportunities

'The NHS has a banding system. Midwives start on band 6 but you can move up to band 7 if you become a practice leader and manage a team of midwives. Modern matrons are a high band 7 or 8.

It’s not as easy as it used to be to work your way up. It used to be based on the clinical experience of the midwife. Now there’s a lot of emphasis put on academic work.

If you don’t do any further academic study after gaining your initial qualification, it would be very rare to be promoted.'

Further training

'The NHS offers quite a lot of programmes to help you gain further qualifications, however they might not offer you additional leave to study.

I’m doing a course called Examination of the Newborn, which is NHS funded but I’m only given 50% study leave. This means I have to use some of my own leave to do the extra work like checking babies.

If you are doing a compulsory course however, you will get 100% study leave.'

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