I was watching Caitlin Moran do her thing on YouTube last night and she's amazing. We're living in the first hundred years or so where women have had any say or a public voice. Social progress in action!
As you have a computer or smartphone, an internet connection and an interest in midwifery, you have more impact on the future of care for women than pretty much anyone who was around when the 1902 Midwives Act came in.
I'll tell you why at the end of this post and give you an all powerful link.
But first, I want to answer 'what's going on with midwifery supervision?'
It’s complicated and no-one has a good idea of what exactly supervision in midwifery will look like in the future. I’m no expert, but I do keep up with everything I can, and here’s how it seems to me.
The tragic events at Morecambe Bay, which I’ve written about before, identified a ‘conflict of interest’ in the role of supervisors of midwives.
Supervisors of midwives are experienced midwives who mentor other midwives. They help when situations are complicated, for instance when women make decisions that are against trust policy, like a homebirth against medical advice. They help midwives advocate.
They also have the power to make midwives do extra training or get supervised if there are problems identified with their practice.
However at Morecambe Bay, it was a problem that the midwives were supervising their close colleagues – the Kirkup report found that supporting and regulating were a difficult mix to get right.
And possibly dangerous to the public.
So the Nursing and Midwifery Council is working with the Department of Health to separate supervision and regulation.
Supervision has always been in British law – but now it won’t be.
Because of these changes, like a ripple effect, the Midwives Rules and Standards are being taken out of law too.
These covered things like rules about midwives being on the register, certain important definitions - and lots on supervision.
And also the Midwifery Committee, which is put together by the Royal College of Midwives is being taken away, again because of its connections with supervision. (The Midwifery Committee is a group of midwives representing from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island).
The Midwifery Committee is going to be replaced by one midwifery advisor, one day a week.
And this is the only midwife who will be officially consulted about midwifery matters when the Nursing and Midwifery Council are making decisions about the UK, which sounds…..rather weak?
Final concerns are about advocacy.
Midwife Sheena Byrom writes about this well here. Supervisors of midwives were always there for midwives before to give them advice and support if women made choices outside the ‘norm’.
The UK government website does comment on this:
‘There is a fear…midwives will be under confident…in advocating for women. Midwives in the future will need to grow in confidence to advocate for their women especially when they wish to make atypical choices.’
And it suggests that this lack of support from supervisors needs to be made up for in undergraduate and postgraduate education.
Which to my mind is a little like saying if you’re well educated enough in the theory, you don’t need support to achieve the practical?
There is a chance this could be an opportunity, rather than an attack on midwifery. After all, every profession needs regulation and any improvements are welcome.
Trusts are now going to be in charge of organising supervision and it could be they take this very seriously.
It could be that more supportive frameworks are put in place for staff, after all trusts are very focussed on good outcomes so good support and supervision make sense to be in place.
But it seems to me (and many others) that it would be safer for midwives and women and families to have supervision, regulation and support for midwives as part of British law.
And you can absolutely help with this.
The Department of Health are accepting feedback on these changes here - and whatever stage of your midwifery journey, be it aspiring, student, qualified (or none of the above!) you can add to the trickle of clicks and voices that will make a difference.
(Brutal honesty: it's in legalese and it'll take you ten minutes. It took me 9 mins and 31 secs. Get a cup of tea and a biscuit.)
Let me know in the comments below if you've done the questionnaire - and even if the questionnaire isn't something you can do right now, comment with your views on the changes.
What do you find most reassuring?
Or what do you find most worrying?
Thanks for reading to this point and caring about midwifery, it's an important post this week! I promise we'll have some fun next week, I've got something brilliant planned 🙂