Progress towards fulfilling the prime minister's promise of recruiting 3,000 more midwives has hit a stumbling block after research revealed the number of midwifery training places has dropped.
Midwifery training places are being cut at 60% of strategic health authorities (SHAs) in England for 2011/12, compared with the previous year's levels, according to findings by Nursing Standard.
The figures are "extremely worrying", the general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Cathy Warwick said.
There are plans for 17% of posts to be cut by the West Midlands SHA, while 6% of posts could go at the North East.
In the East of England, posts are expected to fall by 12% and by more than 4% in the East Midlands.
The South West is expected to cut training places by 9% while Yorkshire and the Humber will see a fall of just over 2%.
Writing in The Sun newspaper before the election, David Cameron said midwives were "overworked and demoralised".
He added: "We will increase the number of midwives by 3,000."
But the latest figures show that only two SHAs plan to fund an increase in midwifery places and a further two SHAs plan no change.
Across all SHAs in England, the number of midwifery training places looks set to be cut by 3.6%.
Scotland will almost halve its midwifery places from 184 to 100 in the 2011/12 academic year, while Northern Ireland will train an additional 30 midwives, the analysis reveals.
Copyright © Press Association 2011
The Royal College of Midwives