More than 3,000 places on midwifery training courses are to be created over the next four years in England as part of plans to meet NHS staffing demands. The government has announced a 25% boost in training places, which it said amounted to the “largest ever” increase in NHS midwives and maternity staff. It follows a similar plan for nurses which was announced last year. The Royal College of Midwives welcomed the move but said training more midwives was only half of the problem. The plan needs investment and time to make it work, the RCM added. An extra 650 midwifery training places will be created next year, followed by 1,000 new places for the three subsequent years. Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt will officially announce the measures at an event on Tuesday. Alongside the increase in training places, Mr Hunt will promise mothers that they will be seen by the same midwife throughout labour, pregnancy and birth by 2021. Appearing on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Mr Hunt said “continuity of carers” could potentially save 700 babies’ lives a year and prevent a further 500 from being born with brain damage, but “it needs more midwives”. He said: “We know we need to make maternity care safer.” It is part of his ongoing ambition to make the NHS “the safest place in the world to give birth” and halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries during birth by 2025, the Department of Health said. Mr Hunt will also announce plans to develop the role of maternity support workers (MSW) by creating set national standards that they must adhere to. New training routes into midwifery will also be introduced. As the government has scrapped the bursary for midwives, it is much less costly to the public purse to increase the number of places. Filling them when student midwives now have to pay fees may be another matter. But even if this is achieved, it doesn’t guarantee the midwife workforce will grow. Over the last five years 7,700 newly-qualified midwives have joined the profession. But the numbers leaving – either because of retirement or, increasingly, quitting the NHS – reached 8,900.