In recent weeks, maternity professionals and service users have rallied in support of independent midwives, after the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) decided that the indemnity scheme provided by Independent Midwives UK was inappropriate. The NMC has faced fierce criticism for its decision. Chief executive Rebecca Schiller (2017: 1) of human rights charity Birthrights has written to NMC chief executive Jackie Smith, expressing concern and seeking ‘clarification and reassurance that the NMC understands the full implications of the decision for pregnant women’. Meanwhile, a number of people have taken to social media to declare their support for independent midwives, and discontent at the NMC's actions. Many have been tweeting with the hashtag #savethemidwife, a Facebook group called Save Independent Midwifery has gained more than 2700 members, and an online petition had over 5200 signatures as BJM went to press.
This issue is about more than just protecting self-employed midwives; it is about allowing women to have choices around their birth experience. One reason why some women opt for an independent midwife is that they value continuity of carer and consistent advice—aspects of care that are increasingly difficult to provide in under-resourced NHS maternity services. A recent report by the National Federation of Women's Institutes and NCT revealed ‘scant progress in measures meant to ensure better clinical outcomes, such as continuity of carer, and even more worryingly instances where standards have declined by considerable margins’ (Plotkin, 2017: 4). The report urges the government to scrap its plan to cut student bursaries, as this will only exacerbate the already worrying shortage of midwives.
With a rising overall birth rate and an increase in the percentage of babies born to women over 35 years old (Office for National Statistics, 2016), it is clear that the need for high-quality midwifery will continue to grow. It is imperative, therefore, that the midwifery workforce crisis is addressed. We must call on policy makers to fund maternity services adequately, and we must also strive to ensure that registered midwives are updated with best practice and undertake continuing professional development (CPD)—not only for the purposes of NMC revalidation but to maintain standards and provide consistent, evidence-based care.
MA Healthcare, which publishes BJM, has launched a new revalidation resource for midwives and nurses called CPD Launchpad. It offers a free e-portfolio to help you record your CPD and practice hours, as well as a range of content to promote reflection. BJM subscribers will also get extra content to help build their personal CPD hours. You can register at cpd-launchpad.co.uk. In addition, many of the articles in BJM now feature reflective questions, to help you translate your reading into a valuable learning experience.
In the face of many challenges to the profession, it has never been more important for every midwife to play his or her part in ensuring that the care midwives provide to women, babies and families is the best it can possibly be.