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Safety netting in midwifery

02 November 2022
Volume 30 · Issue 11


Providing clear, accurate and timely information to women and their families is central to the role of the midwife. It is key to empowering women to make informed decisions and promotes both safety and quality of care. The term ‘safety netting’ has been described as sharing information to help people identify the need to seek further help if their condition fails to improve, changes or if they have concerns about their health. While safety netting is a familiar term in some fields of medicine, it is rarely used in midwifery. This article discusses how safety netting could be a useful concept for midwifery and proposes a framework for providing safety net information. The article includes a clinical scenario that considers how the framework supports clear and comprehensive communication, and a student midwife perspective that reflects on different aspects of safety netting, its teaching and the practice experience. Clear teaching of safety netting has potential advantages for midwifery education and practice.

The report on lessons learnt following the UK and Ireland confidential enquiries into maternal deaths drew attention to the need to provide ‘safety net advice’ to women in the drive to prevent maternal deaths (Knight et al, 2021). The report highlighted the need to be aware of red-flag symptoms (which may indicate a serious condition) and ensure that women and their families are made aware of what they should look out for and what symptoms should be reported. This article explores the concept of safety netting in healthcare and its relevance to midwifery practice. The teaching of safety netting is considered and a personal reflection from a student midwife is included. Finally, a new midwifery-specific framework for safety netting is proposed and a clinical scenario is used to demonstrate the application of this framework to practice.

Safety netting is a practice common in healthcare settings across some specialties and is well established within general practice, emergency medicine and paediatric emergency medicine (Gray et al, 2019; Greenhalgh et al, 2020). Edwards et al (2019a) stated that safety netting advice is information shared with a service-user (or their carer) designed to help them identify the need to seek further help if their condition fails to improve, changes or if they have concerns about their health. This definition is used for the purpose of this article.

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