Where are the consultant midwives?
Nearly two decades after the introduction of the consultant midwife post in the UK, little is understood about where they are and the roles they fulfil within their organisations.
A study was undertaken to determine the overall number of consultant midwives, explore the range of clinical specialities and map their location and coverage across the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.
A survey and intelligence gathering exercise took place with an online survey being sent to key networks including Heads of Midwifery and consultant midwives in 2016/17.
A total of 84 consultant midwives were identified as being employed by around one third of the NHS Trusts and Health Boards. A number of issues were highlighted, including potential retirements and the gradual incorporation of managerial roles in the job description of consultant midwives.
Given the national imperatives for high quality maternity care, there needs to be a focus on succession planning and growth of the role of consultant midwives across all organisations.
Nearly two decades ago, the role of the consultant midwife was recognised at national level across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and more recently in Wales. In England, the role was introduced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to encourage the development of clinical leadership, to retain expert clinical skills and to transform maternity services for the improvement of health outcomes for mothers and babies (DHSC, 1999). The report, Making a Difference, outlined the vision for the role to ensure that consultant midwives had the status and skills to directly influence service level changes to practice and systems and the care quality agenda. Comparing the progression of the role in midwifery, the focus was on strategic and professional leadership and similar visions were applied across all four countries in the UK (Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety, 2000; Scottish Executive Health Department (SEHD), 2001; National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare, 2010). Professional organisations such as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) embraced consultant midwives as influential clinical experts with advanced midwifery practice (RCM, 2009), who work closely with obstetricians and departmental managers at all levels (Royal College of Anaethetists et al, 2007).
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