BLOG: Bringing midwifery and its regulator closer together

Donna Ockenden, Senior Midwifery Adviser, talks about her recent visit to Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust

It’s a great privilege to be the senior midwifery adviser to the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). In the last year I have really enjoyed meeting a range of midwives in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and I am looking forward to a visit to Scotland in early 2018.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust in London. There are fantastic initiatives taking place within their maternity services which are making a crucial difference in the care being provided to women and their families.

Maternity staff at Lewisham and Greenwich are going to great lengths to support the creation and dissemination of best practice around both quality and safety across the organisation. The results are already impressive with a fall in the stillbirth and HIE rate at the Trust.

How can maternity services incorporate advances in technology into everyday midwifery practice? At Lewisham and Greenwich I was delighted to see that ‘Edie the E (electronic) midwife’ continues to go from strength to strength. Edie was designed to deal with non-urgent maternity queries and responds to women by email within 48 hours. Edie is a really creative communication tool and the fact she can deal effectively with non-urgent enquiries gives midwives more time to deal with those women with more urgent care needs.

We know that the retention of staff, particularly if they’re newly registered, is a real challenge for maternity services. To address this problem Lewisham and Greenwich has created a really innovative midwifery preceptorship programme, where midwives in their first year post-registration are provided with dedicated practical sessions that are supported by experienced, clinically-based midwives. Lewisham and Greenwich has thought ahead, addressed midwives’ concerns and is seeing the benefit of that creative thinking.  Staff told me that they have not lost a single midwife in their first year of practice since the start of this new programme at Lewisham and Greenwich.

I recently spent a day with a midwifery student in the final year of her programme at the NMC’s London office for her to see how regulation will affect her future practice. I introduced Sophie to staff across the NMC so she could see first-hand how the NMC protects the public and works alongside nurses and midwives. Sophie was also able to talk with a number of NMC staff about the broader national issues midwives face.

I’m well aware that some midwives have concerns about the relationship between the midwifery profession and the NMC as its regulator. What I have tried to do in the last year is to start to bring the work of the NMC and the midwifery profession closer together. Although we have some way to go, midwives tell me the NMC has created better networks for information sharing and that there is a noticeable improvement in our communications with the midwifery profession. These communications have centred on the crucial work the NMC is doing to protect the health of babies and mothers.

Over the next year the NMC will continue to improve the way it works with midwives. The NMC is determined to move forward in a spirit of celebrating the great successes in the midwifery profession as well as dealing appropriately with difficulties, if and when they occur.

I’m always keen to communicate with as many midwives and student midwives as I can. If you are on Twitter you can Tweet me at @DOckendenLTD, or email me and let’s carry on the conversation about  how the NMC and others can work together now and  in the future to improve care for the women and families we work with. 


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