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Blog: Andrea Sutcliffe and Mary Renfrew say a big Thank you for taking part

After 12 weeks of nationwide public engagement our consultation on the draft future midwife standards has finished

After 12 weeks, our consultation on the draft future midwife standards has finished!  Over the last three months we’ve been out and about across the country to hear people’s thoughts on our proposals.

We’ve listened to hundreds of people at our consultation workshops across the UK. We’ve also heard from people at a range of conferences and events as well as the views of key partners in the health and care sector and beyond.

As well as this, we’ve also been engaging online. Social media has been absolutely vital to raising awareness of this important work and seeking views, in particular from women, partners, families and the wider public.

We’ve received 1,585 responses to our consultation surveys, which goes to show just how many people care about maternity and midwifery services. In particular, we’re delighted that 1,077 of the responses came from women, partners and members of the public, as well as 450 from midwives, student midwives, educators and employers.

Thank you to everyone who has got involved and sent us their views – you are helping to shape the future of one of the most important roles in healthcare.

Development

Of course, our work didn’t start on the 12 February – the draft standards were the product of a huge amount of preparatory work. The draft standards were informed by the best current evidence and aligned with policy in the four countries of the UK. They were developed through extensive engagement with midwives, women, families, advocacy groups, educators, researchers, professional groups, and other health and care professionals over the last two years.

In addition, they’re informed by the international definition of the midwife established by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), and have been mapped to the ICM competencies of the midwife. They are also based on the evidence-informed Framework for Quality Maternal and Newborn Care and definition of midwifery from the Lancet Series on Midwifery, which focuses on the skilled care needed to meet the needs and preferences of women, babies and families, that says midwifery is:

“skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate care for childbearing women, newborn infants and families across the continuum from pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and the early weeks of life. Core characteristics include optimising normal biological, psychological, social and cultural processes of reproduction and early life, timely prevention and management of complications, consultation with and referral to other services, respecting women’s individual circumstances and views, and working in partnership with women to strengthen women’s own capabilities to care for themselves and their families”.

As well as these core elements, at the heart of the standards are the central principles of openness, transparency and a professional duty of candour. So that on the very rare occasions that things go wrong, a culture of continuous learning and improvement becomes embedded within midwifery.

Feedback

We recognise that being a midwife is more than just a job. And behind every response to our consultation, there’s a story. Midwives are there for women, newborn infants and families at some of the most joyous moments in life, but also some of the most testing. They often work closely with many other health and care professionals to make sure women and babies get all the care they need. And the views of all of those groups are essential.

We know through our conversations around the country that getting all this right isn’t easy or straightforward. People have raised many important issues with us, and we can promise you that we are listening.

Examples of the some of those issues raised include:

  • Continuity of carer: the current draft includes a requirement for students to experience continuity of carer. The evidence on this is clear – it results in much better outcomes for women and for babies. There are practical challenges to its implementation which are being addressed by many organisations, and these have been raised in our discussions. We will be listening to the feedback we have received. 

  • Normality: understanding, promoting and supporting normality for women throughout pregnancy, labour and birth, and after birth, and for babies in the early weeks of life, is core to the work of midwives. This is demonstrated by international evidence, and was a key theme in our engagement work as we drafted the standards. The current draft includes many proficiencies and skills that relate to this – including communication on this topic with women and other professionals, understanding normal physiology and psychology, and promoting birth as a public health issue. This has of course been a topic of active debate, and we are looking forward to seeing the comments and suggestions you have all made, as we are committed to getting this right so all women and their babies have the safe and personal care they need.

  • Examination of the newborn: we have built many of the skills in the newborn examination into the standards – all parents are offered a thorough physical examination for their baby within 72 hours of giving birth. It was clear from our engagement that this is an important and growing part of the work of midwives in the UK. We have not included a requirement for the full Newborn and Infant Physical Examination (NIPE) qualification - there are important differences in this regard between the four UK countries, and training and assessment is not yet consistently available across the UK. There has been lively discussion on this topic throughout the consultation, and we are listening and will consider your views.

What happens next?

There’s a lot more that people have told us and now that our formal consultation is finished, the draft standards will be fully reviewed and revised in light of all this input. It’s vital to us that this process is open, transparent and structured in a way that reflects the conversations we had during our consultation.

That’s why we asked an independent research company to collate the feedback to our consultation surveys. They are now conducting a full, thorough and independent analysis of all the responses, as well as evaluation of qualitative engagement with seldom heard groups.

When we receive this report, we’ll refine the draft standards and keep our partners fully informed along the way.

This process will continue to be led by Professor Mary Renfrew. It will include discussion with our Thought Leadership Group of experts and service user groups, as well as our Midwifery Panel. We’ll also be drawing on the expertise of our two full-time, permanent Senior Midwifery Advisers, Jacqui Williams and Verena Wallace.

We’ll then present the final draft future midwife standards to our Council for approval in October. And if approved, they’ll be ready for implementation by midwifery educators across all universities and by midwives in all sites where students are taught in practice.

Thank you again

This is a pivotal time for the future of the midwifery profession. We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to our consultation and help to shape the education and practice of future midwives.

Find out what happened during the consultation and how you can stay in the loop.


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