Footballer backs midwife petition

Footballer Theo Walcott has joined a campaign calling for more midwives in England.

The England and Arsenal star has signed the Royal College of Midwives' (RCM) online petition for 5,000 more midwives.

The petition currently has just over 67,000 signatures and the RCM says it must reach 100,000 by August 22.

Actress Jessica Raine, who plays the lead role in the hit BBC drama series Call The Midwife, has also joined the campaign - along with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and actors Pam Ferris, Stephen McGann and Terri Dwyer.

Walcott said: "I have grown up knowing how important midwives are because my mum was a midwife for the NHS and also worked independently. She taught mums about healthy eating and giving babies the best start in life. I support the RCM's campaign for 5,000 more midwives because we need more midwives and role models like my mum. Please support midwives and sign the e-petition."

His mother Lynn added: "There are so many sacrifices that midwives make for their profession. We don't need midwives who are bystanders with plastic gloves on. We need more midwives to empower women to help educate them to give back choices and options for women before, during and after childbirth and to teach mothers about breastfeeding and home birth."

In the last decade the number of births in the country has risen by more than 22% but over the same period the number of midwives has risen by less than 17%, an RCM spokeswoman said.

RCM general secretary and chief executive Cathy Warwick said: "We are touched and delighted that so many high-profile celebrities, actors, actresses and footballers are backing our campaign. The Government know there is a problem and a dire shortage of midwives, and are committed to training more midwives, but what is needed are more midwifery jobs."

Visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13716 to sign the e-petition.

Health Minister Anne Milton said: "There are now 845 more midwives in the NHS in April 2012 than in May 2010, and a record 5,000 currently in training who will qualify over the next three years. We will continue to work with the RCM to make sure we have an appropriately resourced and skilled maternity workforce based on the most up-to-date evidence."