I was surprised that the Sunday Times wasn’t full of the latest scandalous report into maternity services. Bill Kirkup’s report into East Kent showed a toxic culture that harms women, babies their families – and midwives. It was the same old story: rapid turnover of managers – none of whom were able to change anything, women weren’t listened to, mistakes were covered up, deaths were labelled ‘expected’ to avoid an inquest, poor teamwork, too many locums, too little consultant presence, passing the buck down to the lowly midwife or locum. None of the outside bodies brought in to suggest changes was able to make the slightest difference, from the now defunct LSA, RCOG, RCM, CQC, HSIB. There was an acceptance that it was impossible to change consultant behaviour (some of them just wouldn’t come in at night) or indeed midwife behaviour – RCM was able to identify a bullying culture but nothing was done to address this terrible problem. (What is it about women and cliques?)
Kirkup just couldn’t resist having a dig at normal birth in his recommendations, but having read the report carefully, I could see no justification for this. Apparently, working in a team means you shouldn’t be ‘there for women’ in case you inadvertently encourage them to believe in the ‘ideal’ of normal birth. But if you aren’t there for them, who will be? The locum whom no one’s never met before, or the consultant who won’t get out of bed for her? I don’t think I have the same definition of team working as that held by Bill Kirkup, a retired gynaecologist. For me the mother is the most important person in the team helping her baby to be born, but her voice is not heard. She can’t even get a c section when she asks for one.
Despite Kirkup’s questionable opinions, luckily, there hasn’t yet been a further Twitter storm against midwives. So thank you for your constraint, gentlemen, much appreciated, more midwife bashing would merely exacerbate the lamentable situation. Because now midwives are leaving in droves, and who can blame them? Enough is enough.
We do all know how to ensure that women are listened to, give them their own midwife (it’s called continuity of carer). While even I can understand why management wants to scoop up all the midwives into the obstetric unit, that’s not likely to work – because while you can prevent a midwife doing a job she loves, you can’t force her to do one she hates. She’ll vote with her feet. And they are, they are. So we are marching for them on November 20th. Because we want to be there for midwives because they were there for us.