Report by Katherine Hales, ARM National Coordinator
Around 200 mothers, fathers, babies, midwives, birth activists and supporters gathered outside the offices of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) at 23 Portland Place London for the ‘Save the Midwife’ campaign. Many traveled a considerable distance to support this vital campaign and to celebrate the International Day of the Midwife and it was heartwarming to see babies and youngsters cheerfully joining in.
Speeches were made, including powerful words by midwife Becky Reed, formerly of the Albany midwifery practice, who told us about her long ordeal at the hands of the NMC. It took five years for her to receive a “no case to answer” result. Ruth Weston of Birth Choices, Paula Cleary from Birthplace Matters and Michelle Quashie, mother and birth activist, also spoke movingly, as did Liz Nightingale for independent midwives.
There was a brilliant range of creative banners, songs and chants, some of which can be viewed in the gallery (below). Deb Hughes was in authentic and eye-catching “Call the Midwife” uniform! Caroline Flint who suggested and organised the demonstration was also with us. A number of photographers appeared and there was a report in the Daily Telegraph. Please let us know if you heard or saw any other reports.
We are able to report that Rachel Dufton communications officer of the NMC had offered to meet with a small group of us. Ruth Weston, Paula Cleary and Beverley Beech (AIMS) represented the lay voice and Deb Hughes and Katherine Hales represented midwives. We met with CEO Jackie Smith, Rachel Dufton, and Emma Broadbent (Director of Registrations.) We had a 45 minute discussion with all present raising important points of concern to midwives and parents. We managed to cover quite a lot in the relatively short time including the loss of the Midwives Rules and statutory supervision; the lack of midwifery leadership and erosion of midwife autonomy; the importance of a strong midwifery profession in protecting women’s rights in childbirth and informed choice (amply demonstrated by international research); lack of appropriate standards for education and practice; the potential for home birth to be less accessible as NHS trusts’ contractual power over their staff overrides “duty of care” to attend a birth; the place of UK midwifery as a global gold standard; independent midwifery and the decisions taken recently by the NMC which seem to have been badly considered and implemented from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues. All present reported disappointment with the lack of a considered or timely response to all petitioners whether midwives or lay people.
Jackie Smith spoke for the NMC and stressed several times that the NMC’s role was to protect public safety and was not a voice for midwives as such. We are of course aware of this but the inattention of the NMC to women’s voices and concerns led to the conclusion that they are not fulfilling their role in protecting the public. Jackie reminded us that we have a new midwifery panel, a midwife advisor and Mary Renfrew working on educational standards. She stated that statutory supervision was ended by the Department of Health (DOH), not the NMC. Having read the minutes of the meeting at which the decision was made we felt that the NMC had made no attempt to counter the DOH view. We were interested in how much actual influence the midwifery panel and advisor may actually have and how and by whom they were appointed.
Jackie Smith undertook to explore the possibility of undoing the statement about midwives being unable to attend friends or family and would not comment on the independent midwife situation; we later heard the good news that IMUK have obtained a judicial review and their case is going ahead.
We intend to write to thank Jackie Smith and the NMC for meeting with us and will be monitoring their undertaking to engage more appropriately with users and midwives and will request a follow up meeting in early autumn. We intend to build the Save the Midwife campaign as we have no reassurance that midwifery as a profession, or childbearing women, are safe.
Do visit the ‘Save Independent Midwifery’ Facebook group for more photos and videos and if not already a member, please consider joining ARM and then you’ll be able to read a full report and analysis of the demo and meeting in our magazine ‘Midwifery Matters’. We welcome anyone who wants to help Save the Midwife to our campaign meeting in Peterborough on the 20th May 2017.