Column by Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie.

Hundreds of people from across Stroud, the Valleys and Vale marched from the Sub Rooms in support of Midwives at the weekend.

During my pregnancy and in my first few months as a new mum, I was helped a great deal by my wonderful midwife and health visitors. I will be forever thankful.

The work that midwives do is truly phenomenal and I stand in solidarity with midwives and healthcare professionals in their call for Government action.

In response to local correspondence about this issue, I applied for a debate to take place in parliament to highlight the situation to ministers. I was pleased to receive so many messages from midwives around the country in support of my debate application.

Many midwives are concerned about workload within birthing centres and maternity wards are under serious strain. This is leading to illness for staff and many are either leaving or wanting to leave the job.

The pandemic has made the situation worse and I know mums-to-be are worried about services.

Staff issues and recruitment is a big issue for so many sectors at the moment. However, I have worked on a new strategy for early years in government and I see midwives as key to the success of this so I am urging the Government to do more to train more midwives and retain the ones we have.

The Government has said it is aiming to hire 1,200 more midwives and it has put £95 million aside for a recruitment drive. This is good news but more will need to be done. By seeking a debate, a Minister will need to respond to concerns so please do send me any points or information that you think should be included in my speech. I will do my best to do so.

The rally in Stroud was one of many across the country and it shows the level of concern and the support midwives have.

Covid booster jabs can now be booked by those over 40 - that’s me and I will do it in the coming days. I urge everyone in this decade of their lives to do the same.

There is alarming news on the continent about a fourth Covid wave with Austria in a full lockdown and partial ones in other countries like The Netherlands.

Here we have managed - due to our excellent vaccination drive – to keep infection rates, hospitalisations rates and death from the virus steady and at just a fraction of what they were before the vaccine rollout.

But if we want to guarantee no further restrictions then getting the booster into everyone over 40 will do a great deal to achieve that.

Booster jabs actually do what they say on the tin.

A study from the UK Health Security Agency found that protection against Covid rose to 93.1% following the booster for those initially jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Those who received the Pfizer vaccine saw protection increase to 94% via a booster.

Many might have heard that in Austria a covid vaccine will now become mandatory. The Health Secretary said over the weekend this will not happen in this country. I welcome that. Vaccination rates are very high in this country and it is better this is achieved voluntarily.