The Department of Health has said it will prioritise a review of nurse and midwife numbers.

The move follows lobbying by organisations such as the Royal College of Midwives, which has highlighted major shortages in midwifery. There are also recognised shortages in school nursing, health visiting, critical care, theatres and neonatal nursing.

In a statement last week, the DH said it had asked the NHS Centre for Workforce Intelligence “to undertake an in-depth review of the demand and supply issues and workforce modelling”.

RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick welcomed the new priority given to the review. She said: “It will be a detailed piece of work and we have been involved in discussions.”

Professor Warwick said it was vital the review looked at ensuring the right ratios of experienced midwives to newly qualified, or recently qualified staff and should focus on leadership in the midwife workforce.

Prime minister David Cameron pledged to increase midwife numbers by 3,000 in the run-up to last year’s election. But last month the government told HSJ’s sister magazine Nursing Times it had not yet set a target for new midwives.

At the time a DH spokeswoman said: “We do need more midwives, but, rather than picking random numbers, our policy will be based on evidence.”