Version 1, 12 June 2023
What actually is the MSSW role?
A maternity services support worker (MSSW) provides support to a maternity team, pregnant women and their families. The MSSW undertakes duties in a maternity setting, under the direction and supervision of a registered midwife, so midwifery training and registration are not required. MSSWs complement the care that midwives provide to pregnant women and babies.
The title maternity support worker (MSW) is most commonly used to describe an MSSW, but there are a range of alternative role descriptions and names in use that refer to the same role, including maternity care assistant (MCA) and midwifery assistant (MA).
The roles and responsibilities of MSSWs in England can vary but day-to-day tasks include:
- helping to care for pregnant women, babies and families
- making routine observations (temperature, pulse, blood pressure, breathing, etc)
- updating records and other administrative tasks
- educating parents, one-to-one or in groups
- taking blood samples
- ordering stationery and equipment
- cleaning and preparing equipment
- supporting baby breastfeeding
- reporting problems to a registered midwife or nurse.
You can find out more about the MSSW role in this clip of MSSWs Emily and Sian, who work at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust.
Many trusts recruit MSSWs at band 2 without previous experience and provide candidates with opportunities to learn clinical and communication skills.
Some trusts may ask for experience of working with children and families, which may be accepted in place of formal qualifications.
All candidates are expected to have a good standard of numeracy and literacy.
Candidates will be asked to show how they think the NHS values apply in their everyday work eg by using examples from day-to-day life like caring responsibilities (children, family members, etc), volunteering roles and other real-life examples.
I’ve worked on labour ward, postnatal ward and am currently in antenatal clinic doing phlebotomy. On labour ward a lot of the job involves cleaning and stocking rooms. We go into emergencies, bringing in equipment that is needed and scribing when needed.
“There have been days on labour ward when I have not even seen a baby! On postnatal ward there is much more opportunity for patient-facing care. MCAs on postnatal do all the baby observations, new born blood spots and weighs and help the ladies get up after c-sections.Kerrie, Maternity Care Assistant, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
A typical day starts at 7am with listening to the handover from the night staff – establishing if anyone needs extra help or support, etc.
“Then we go around and change all the water jugs, get the beds made up/changed, assist with giving lunch and supper meals to patients and cleaning a bed space when someone is discharged.
“In between our set tasks, we assist the midwives with venepuncture, cannulation, blood glucose observations, support with breastfeeding and any other tasks they need help with.Katie, Maternity Services Support Worker, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
Candidates will get all the training and support they need to do their job safely and to become effective members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT). This includes an introduction to their maternity department and team, as well as local training including how to use various equipment and/or procedures to follow. Candidates will also be supported to complete the Care Certificate if they haven’t already done so.
They may also be offered the chance to study for qualifications available to the entire NHS support workforce including MSSWs, healthcare support workers (HCSWs) and allied health professionals (AHPs), such as:
- the NCFE CACHE level 2 certificate in healthcare support services
- the NCFE CACHE level 3 diploma in healthcare support
- a maternity support worker apprenticeship, which helps MSSWs progress from band 2 to band 3 and beyond.
MSSWs can join the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), a professional organisation and trade union which runs courses, conferences, and seminars where you can update your skills and network with others working in the same field.
To ensure organisations select the right candidates, they must be able to fairly assess people against key essential and desirable criteria. A common method to assess these criteria is an interview, although some trusts opt for scenario-based recruitment. It is completely normal to worry about the interview process, but there is lots a candidate can do to prepare and increase confidence:
- Read the job description and person specification several times and have a think about what the role is and what skills/attributes the trust are looking for.
- Then, think about the kind of questions an interviewer may ask to obtain as much information as they can about how well you match the role in an interview.
- Topics including team working skills, communication skills, dealing with difficult situations and confidentiality are key themes that may be covered.
- Look up the trust’s or NHS values and behaviours and how they match yours.
- Take notes into the interview if needed.
- These can act as a useful prompt if you need a quick reminder during the interview.
- It is good etiquette to ask the panel if they would mind you referring to notes before using them.
- Ask questions about the role.
- Panels always like to see that a candidate has thought about what they want to know and asks questions accordingly, as it shows a motivation to want to know more and can help you stand out.
- Practice answering interview questions.
- You could ask a colleague or a family member to ask you some practice questions.
- This can help you formulate answers and get used to verbally saying them to another person.
- They can also give feedback about clarity, structure of the answers and relevance of the example chosen.
- This exercise will help with recalling answers in an interview situation.
- Don’t be afraid to go back to a previous question and add another point if something comes to mind.
- Make a quick note of any additional comments you have and ask the panel if they mind whether you provide a little more information on a previous question.
- Ensure the laptop, computer or tablet you are using for the interview has a good wi-fi connection as, often, hospitals conduct interviews using online platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
- If appropriate, you can also seek support from organisations such as the job centre, employability teams at a local council, the Prince’s Trust, or Citizens Advice – many of these organisations have teams who can support you to gain employability skills that will help develop your confidence.
- Research online.
- There are so many video clips and tutorials on how to prepare and perform in interviews, all developed by people who have been through it.
The NHS believes in leadership at all levels and MSSWs are a valued member of any team within the NHS. MSSWs are integral to the exemplary patient care that is provided. A perfect example of how we recognise the value of our MSSWs is through the CMidO MSSW excellence award which was launched in October 2022. In the initial cohort, we had MSSWs nominated by midwives, other MSSWs, senior nurses, practice educators and more.
The NHS is one big family and MSSWs are part of our wider support workforce which includes HCSWs and AHPs. MSSWs work as part of a multidisciplinary team, including doctors, midwives, and therapists, to name a few, who will be more than happy to advise, listen or support you.
MSSWs are from all backgrounds and experiences. Everyone is welcome and brings with them strengths and perspectives that enhance the whole team, which helps patient outcomes. The NHS and local trusts all welcome a diverse and inclusive MSSW workforce whatever your age, disability, sex, gender identity and gender expression, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or other personal circumstances.
If you have a lived experience, for example mental health, disability, experience of homelessness or other – don’t hesitate to put in an application. Support and/or reasonable adjustments are provided for all staff – so have a chat with the trust. For more information about reasonable adjustments see this guidance on reasonable adjustments for workers with disabilities or health conditions.
For more information about mental health see NHS England » individual placement and support (IPS) offers route to employment for people with severe mental health conditions. The IPS service is available to anyone accessing the mental health and/or addictions treatment teams where employment specialists are based. It’s for anyone who wants to find work.
There are many roles that can be undertaken as an MSSW, some of these are in departments such as day assessment units, community, education and health and wellbeing. These require the same underpinning knowledge and skills but with added extras, for example health and wellbeing MSSWs are trained and qualified to give nicotine replacement therapy to pregnant women.
There are always opportunities to learn and there is now the rollout of the registered midwifery degree apprenticeship which would enable learners to become a registered midwife following a 3-4-year apprenticeship programme.
There are also opportunities for career progression for our MSSW colleagues who are not interested in becoming a midwife. The Maternity support worker competency, education and career development framework has helped to embed the importance of investing in MSSWs and the benefit this can bring to an organisation, as well as the experience of women and families.
I started my role as a Maternity Support Worker four years ago with no maternity experience, I took as many learning opportunities as I could and gained experience in different departments before securing a level 4 role as a clinical educator MSW looking after the educational needs of the maternity support worker workforce for our three hospital sites.Nicola, Clinical Educator Maternity Support Worker, University Hospitals Morecambe Bay, NHS Foundation Trust
MSSWs may also receive unsocial hours payments and have the option to earn more by working extra hours through the staff bank system.
MSSW pay is determined by the AfC. This pay system covers all staff except doctors, dentists and very senior managers. Each of the nine pay bands has multiple pay points. Staff will normally progress to the next pay point annually until they reach the top of the pay band. In addition to basic pay, there is also extra pay for staff who work in high-cost areas such as in and around London.
Each band features a number of pay points, all offering a structured opportunity to progress your salary. More information is available on the NHS Employers website.
The MSSW role can be shaped around your responsibilities. MSSW roles can be extremely flexible, your hours will be discussed at interview and with your appointing manager.
There are also opportunities to join the NHS as a MSSW on a more flexible basis through a range of apprenticeship schemes.
1. ‘If I apply for a maternity services support worker role, will the organisation be able to sponsor my visa?’
The candidate will need to discuss whether this is an option with the trust they are interested in individually.
2. ‘I only have a couple of months left on my visa; will I still be able to apply for a maternity services support worker role?’
A candidate could still apply for a MSSW in this instance on the basis that a current and valid visa for work in the UK is held. If a candidate has any concerns about this, we recommend you speak to the trust you are considering applying to, and for further information consult the UK visas and immigration website.
3. ‘What documents will I need should I be successful at interview?’
All candidates will be asked to provide several pieces of documentation either at interview or shortly after. These cover the 6 NHS employment check standards:
- That you are who you say you are.
- The recruiting organisation will provide you with a list of acceptable documents; this will generally be a combination of a government issued photographic identification document and documents confirming your current residing address.
- Right to work
- All successful applicants will need to show that they have the legal right to work in the UK or be likely to obtain the relevant permission within an acceptable period.
- This may be a passport or other right to work documents, eg visas.
- Professional registration and qualification checks
- If a post has specified that you must have certain qualifications and/or a professional registration then you will need to provide details: either qualification certificates, and/or registration details with regulatory bodies.
- Employment history
- This is to check the information that you have provided in your application.
- If you are new to the NHS then the employer will want to check your employment (or training) history for the past three years and they will want to get references, where possible.
- If you have any gaps for this period, please clearly explain the reason for the gap.
- Criminal record checks
- An MSSW role will require this to check whether there is any data held relating to a person’s criminal history.
- This helps to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from entering the workforce and gaining access to individuals who may be more vulnerable because they are receiving healthcare or other services.
- It does not necessarily mean if you have a conviction that you will not be allowed to work as a MSSW, but this will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
- It will also be checked against the application form so please make sure that this section is accurate.
- If you are unsure whether you should declare something, please contact the trust’s recruiting team prior to completing the application form.
- Work health assessments
- You will be asked to complete a self-report health screening to assess whether you are able and fit to undertake a particular role.
- Should there be any issues which need assessing then this will be undertaken by an occupational health specialist who may need to see/speak to you directly.
- This is an opportunity to address any reasonable adjustments that may be advised.
Please be assured that the trust’s recruitment team will work with you to help you understand and provide the right information to make this process as smooth as possible. It may be useful to pull together any supporting documentation ahead of your interview to ensure there are no document gaps that may delay formal appointment to your role.
For information on how to apply for MSSW roles, please visit:
The NHS is passionate about creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values diversity. We welcome applicants of all backgrounds and experiences.
If you need support with the NHS application form, this e-learning resource from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust can help:
- Complete all sections fully.
- Ensure you have demonstrated in the ‘supporting information’ section of the application form how you meet the essential criteria for the role.
- Use the word count available to sell yourself and all your skills and attributes.
- Your application form will be all they have to go off to decide whether to invite you for interview or not, so it is in your hands!
You can also find more details about live vacancies:
If you still have questions, have a look at these useful resources
- Maternity Support Worker – e-learning for healthcare (e-lfh.org.uk)
- Maternity Support Workers | Health Education England (hee.nhs.uk)
- Step Into The NHS :: Maternity support worker
- Real-life stories | Health Careers
- Start your journey to becoming a healthcare support worker today | Health Careers
- NHS Staffing Pool Hub – Careers in Healthcare – Healthcare Support Worker or Healthcare Assistant | NHS Professionals
- Maternity support worker | Explore careers | National Careers Service
- How to become a maternity support worker (rcm.org.uk)
- Maternity support worker | Health Careers
Publication reference: B1922_ii