Byline: PAUL RIDDELL;TIM KNOWLES
HEALTH trusts in Scotland are using midwives as cheap labour by paying them scandalously low wages, it was claimed yesterday.
Around half of the country's midwives are still paid substantially less than NHS guidelines issued by the Government two years ago.
Last night the Royal College of Midwives said the underpayment of their members - the most senior medical specialists present at thousands of births - was a 'national disgrace'.
The row flared as Tony Blair threw his weight behind a pay rise for nurses in the clearest sign yet that Labour finally recog-nises the plight of NHS staff.
The row over midwives pay is the latest to engulf Scottish Health Minister Sam Galbraith. The Royal College of Midwives is campaigning for the NHS recommendation of a [pounds sterling]16,000 salary to be paid to midwives in Scotland.
Two Scottish trusts pay some of their qualified midwives only [pounds sterling]12,000 per year.
A spokesman for the Royal College said: 'Health trusts are blatantly ignoring the NHS's own guidelines. They are delivering babies on the cheap.
'A midwife is responsible for the safety of the baby and the mother and for diagnosing any specialist help which they may need. That is a big responsibility which midwives are doing day in day out.' The Association of Radical Midwives also urged health trusts to change the way they graded midwives and drastically improve their pay. Mary Kennedy, speaking for the association, said: 'Midwives are highly-trained professionals.' Gillian Lenaghan, industrial relations Officer with the Royal College of Midwives described the present pay scale in Scotland as 'obscene'. She said: 'There is no way we believe that the care midwives provide is substandard, yet their salary is certainly substandard. All we're asking for is a fair wage for a fair day's work.' The NHS issued its guidelines recommending that all midwives be paid at F-grade, around [pounds sterling]16,000 per year two years ago. Bosses at West Lothian Health Trust yesterday organised urgent talks with the Royal College of Midwives and after being accused of paying 'scandalous' wages to midwives there.
The trust employs bank midwives - those employed from outside on a pool system - at D-grade, the salary scale normally given to novices.
Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell supported criticism of the West Lothian Trust saying it was important midwives were not undervalued if they were to be persuaded to remain at the hospital. He said: 'Midwives have an absolutely crucial job.' The Royal College claimed their members at St John's Hospital in Livingston were the lowest paid in Scotland, a claim later backed by other trusts who admitted they paid a higher salary of up to [pounds sterling]2,000 more a year.
But even these trusts were forced to admit they paid only the next higher grade - itself lower than the NHS guideline. …