This year has been challenging, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all areas of life. COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all NHS staff who work with patients from April of next year (Gov.uk, 2021) and a number of European countries have reintroduced lockdowns (BBC News, 2021).
Maternity services have not been unaffected. According to the latest Mind the Gap report from Baby Lifeline (2021), support is needed urgently to retain skilled professionals in maternity and the pandemic has created barriers to training maternity staff. The Royal College of Midwives (2021) continues its campaign calling for a fairer pay rise for NHS staff, as a survey earlier this year reported that this may encourage staff retention.
This year, the British Journal of Midwifery has published articles on the pandemic's effect on maternity services and midwifery. Our articles have examined the effects on intrapartum care (Martin and Hameed, 2021), women's experiences of maternity services (Stacey et al, 2021) and how the pandemic affected clinical outcomes of pregnancy (Smith et al, 2021). Overwhelmingly, the conclusions are that the pandemic has had far-reaching effects on many aspects of pregnancy, birth and midwifery services across the UK.
I have faced some personal challenges this year. In May, I lost my mother and the impact on me and my family was devastating. But not all my challenges have been negative. In September, I took over as editor for this journal and while getting to grips with it has been a challenge, I have hugely enjoyed my new role and feel so privileged to be part of the British Journal of Midwifery community.
Similarly, while research has shown the difficulties the pandemic has caused, there has also been evidence of the brilliant work being carried out in maternity services across the UK. Stacey et al (2021) reported how women valued support from health professionals when recounting their experiences of maternity care. As we reflect on the year behind us and look forward to the new year ahead, it is clear that midwives have once again been a shining example of compassion, strength and kindness as they continue to provide high-quality care across the UK.