BLOG: Learning lessons and world class maternity services

Donna Ockenden, Senior Midwifery Adviser, reflects on the last few months at the NMC

Last month the PSA published its Lessons Learned Review into the NMC’s handling of the Morecambe Bay fitness to practise cases. I know how seriously the NMC take the findings of the review and I would like to echo their statements and apologise unreservedly to the families who lost loved ones or suffered in other ways at Morecambe Bay. 

At its last meeting the NMC’s Council discussed the report in some detail, accepting all the recommendations and lessons of the review, and I know that they’re absolutely committed to putting right the mistakes of the past. Plans for how the lessons and recommendations will be implemented will be presented to the Council at its next meeting in July. I know this review may have caused significant concern across maternity services and if you would like to discuss this or any other topic I would be very glad to hear from you.

Out and about at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust

A few weeks ago we celebrated International Day of the Midwife which this year celebrated midwives leading the way with high quality care. I got to see this first hand when, along with NMC Council members, I visited the maternity unit at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust. 

As part of our visit we were invited to see how the introduction of a new case loading team is helping to support continuity of care for women and families. I was delighted to be invited back in a few months’ time to see how the project is progressing.

The facilities at Chelsea and Westminster are truly world class – and really enable midwives to lead the way in the quality of care they deliver. And it’s these facilities, combined with the skills and drive of the staff that has led to ambitious targets to increase women’s access to midwifery led care with it being a first option to women, rather than having to ‘opt in’.  

It was also really positive to see how midwives at the Trust are being trained in home birth clinical scenarios using incredibly realistic simulation settings, working alongside and in partnership with the London Ambulance Service. 

The maternity unit and paramedics are working closely together to learn from each other when attending an emergency home birth scenario. The maternity unit has a ‘home setting’ for simulation training, which is so realistic it even has pot plants! Midwives practise managing a home birth in a real-life simulation setting, calling for an ambulance and working with paramedics. The scenarios are filmed and feedback is given at the end of each scenario. Midwives and paramedics were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences and it’s an excellent way to help them feel prepared for any such situations that may arise.

Chelsea and Westminster is one of the biggest maternity services in London with around 11,000 births a year and we visited on a really busy clinical day. Even with all the pressures facing the midwives and staff, they clearly prioritised the women, babies and families in their care. It was nice to see the maternity wards have a ‘quiet time’ at 1pm where the lights are dimmed and clinical care is minimised to encourage new mothers to rest on the postnatal ward.  

We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit, I am looking forward to visiting more units across the UK.

New midwifery standards

As many of you will know, the NMC recently published its new education standards that set out how nursing and midwifery education will be delivered in the years to come.

Coupled with this the NMC are also working hard to develop brand new standards for midwives which will set out the skills and knowledge they’ll need to join the register in the future. Work is well underway and we’ve completed our first phase of engagement and evidence gathering. We’ve held lots of focus groups, workshops and webinars across the UK to listen to people’s views and this has been hugely valuable in helping us shape our proposals.

Don’t worry if you have not had a chance to have your say, there will be many opportunities for midwives, students, women and families to get involved over the next few months. You can also find lots of information on the NMC website or by signing up to the virtual thought leadership group.

While all this work takes place, I’ll continue to visit midwives and staff in maternity units and I have visits planned to Northern Ireland and Scotland. I am also in the process of arranging my second visit to Wales. I look forward to hearing about all the excellent work going on across the UK. 

Thank you.


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