Blog: “The midwife’s role is crucial in providing safe and personal maternity care.”

Published on 09 May 2023

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent is the newly appointed first Chief Midwife for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), following four years as England’s first Chief Midwifery Officer. Jacqueline shares her reflections as Chief Midwifery Officer, what it means to be a midwife and what she is most looking forward to in her new role.

JDB.png‘Over the past 33 years, working as a midwife in clinical practice, education, leadership, management and policy; serving women, babies and their families at such a significant time of the life course, has been an absolute pleasure. At times of extreme joy and unspeakable sadness for some families, the midwife’s role is crucial in providing safe and personal maternity care. What we do ripples through generations! There has, quite rightly, been a focus on maternity and neonatal services recently, with independent reports showing that some families have experienced unacceptable care, trauma and loss and we have much to do to ensure that avoidable loss is and remains in the past.

Our actions however, speak louder than words, so looking back over the last four years, I have built the midwifery infrastructure at NHS England including: two deputy chief midwifery officers, seven regional chief midwives and their deputies. I have worked across professions, supporting the plans for my obstetric colleagues to recruit seven regional obstetricians. This infrastructure not only provides a career structure for aspirant Chief Midwives, it also provides the necessary support for safer maternity care, ensuring that maternity health outcomes and experiences remain central to all plans and surveillance triggers timely support.

The aims of the new delivery plan for maternity and neonatal services are for care to be safer, more personalised, and more equitable for women, babies, and families. Midwives are central to this ambition, and this is why your work, continues to be so important. With this in mind, since I started, I have, with colleagues: secured funding for an additional 1,682 midwives, 311 obstetricians, 387 MSWs and over 550 neonatal nurses, plus the retention lead midwives, developed leadership programmes for aspirant midwifery/maternity leaders, supported the growth of nearly 100 midwifery ambassadors who, among other things, go into schools to support school children to consider a career in midwifery, developed A-EQUIP and the Professional Midwifery Advocate (PMAs) role, grown 1,320 PMAs, supported continuity of carer where safe staffing is in place, led the development of Perinatal Pelvic Health services to ensure that all women have access to multidisciplinary pelvic health services by 2024 and Co-led for Perinatal Mental Health services (PMH) aiming for at least 66,000 women with moderate/severe PMH difficulties to access care in the community by 2023/24.

Looking forward, I am excited about my new role as the first Chief Midwife for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), identifying issues and developing policy that maintains the ICMs position as the global credible, authentic voice of midwifery. I have aspirations to advocate for and represent the interests of midwives and the midwifery profession globally, amplifying the message that investment in midwifery education and training, at agreed international standards, yields significant return on investment. With this in mind, I see a future where all women and babies, regardless of ethnicity, skin colour and socio-economic status, have the same maternity experiences and health outcomes as those who have the best! Thank you for playing your part.’

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