The Nursing and Midwifery Council has said the midwifery profession was “still playing catch up” after a report warned Britain’s rising birth rate was leading to a shortage of staff.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council said there were midwife shortages in many areas of the country faced with a spiralling number of births.

Supervision, Support and Safety: an analysis of the 2008 to 2009 local supervising authorities’ annual reports to the NMC calls on health authorities to act on the concerns raised.

The report says a rising number of complex births, plus potential challenges including substance abuse and obesity, were also placing a strain on existing midwifery services.

NMC chief executive and registrar Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes said: “Although successful efforts have been made to boost the numbers of midwives in many regions, others are still lagging behind and this problem could worsen as a significant proportion of experienced midwives and supervisors of midwives are now approaching retirement age.

“The NMC urges maternity service providers, related health authorities and the UK health departments to monitor the situation and act swiftly if LSAs raise concerns about the quality of care provided to mothers and babies.”

The report also poses questions about the rising numbers of midwives recommended to undertake a spell of supervised practice.

A DH spokesperson said: “We have made it clear that maternity services should remain a priority for the NHS and have invested an additional £330m; however, ringfencing funding is outdated and prevents the local NHS from spending budgets as it sees fit to meet the needs of local communities.

“We have set a goal to recruit an extra 4,000 midwives by 2012 and the NHS has already exceeded an interim target to recruit 1,000 by September this year, which shows the high priority being given to maternity services.”