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NMC sets out proposals to transform the future of midwifery care across the UK

26 September 2019

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has unveiled innovative new standards to equip the next generation of midwives with the knowledge, understanding, and skills to deliver the best and safest care possible for women, babies and families of the future.

Released today, for approval by the NMC governing council on 3 October 2019, the proposed Future Midwife Standards will ensure the role of the midwife evolves to meet an individual’s health needs and preferences and the challenges within a rapidly changing health and care system.

The standards have been co-produced in partnership with midwives, student midwives, women, families and other health and care professionals across all four countries of the UK. They are based on the best current evidence and reflect the transforming context in which midwives work.

The new standards place an emphasis on perinatal mental health. Perinatal mental health problems affect up to 20 per cent of women, and, if untreated, can have a serious impact. The new proposals will ensure midwives have the right knowledge and skills to identify the individual mental health needs of women as early as possible, and to work in collaboration with multidisciplinary teams to provide evidence-based, compassionate and appropriate person-centred care.

These standards will also ensure that midwives continue to have the knowledge and skills to be the lead caregiver for women and babies throughout their maternity journey.

There is an increased focus on midwives providing continuity of care, whether working in the community, a midwifery-led unit or hospital. Midwives will be a constant presence to ensure the needs, preferences, and decisions of women and babies are understood and met. Midwives will continue to provide this continuity when complications arise, working alongside other professionals.

The standards also recognise the important role midwives have in improving public health. Whether through supporting women with giving up smoking, counselling on reproductive health after birth and supporting women with infant feeding, the standards will help future midwives make a valuable contribution to public health.

A woman’s experience of care during pregnancy, birth and beyond, should be seamless and the new standards are a step forward to ensuring this becomes a reality for all.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar, at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said:

“I’m really grateful to everyone who has helped shape the future standards of one of the most important roles in health and care.

“Night and day midwives make sure thousands of women, babies and families across the UK get the quality of care they need at some of the most joyous moments in life, but also some of the most testing.

“From responding to people’s complex needs to different working environments and new innovations and evidence – it’s clear much has changed in health and social care since our current midwifery standards were first introduced ten years ago.

“Through our new standards, which I hope the Council will approve next week, we’re ensuring midwives of the future know what is expected of them for the benefit of women, babies and their families who depend on experiencing the best and safest person-centred care possible.”

 

Professor Mary Renfrew, Professor of Mother and Infant Health at the University of Dundee, and standards development lead said:

“At the heart of these standards is our desire to ensure midwives can continue to provide safe, effective, respectful and compassionate care for all women and babies regardless of their circumstances.

“New evidence shows the significant impact that midwives have on clinical outcomes including mental health, as well as other important outcomes like attachment and family relationships. Excellent midwifery care improves the lives of women and their families every day and these standards are a fundamental step in ensuring maternity care here remains among the best and safest in the world.

"We know that many midwives are already delivering care in ways that align with these new standards, and it’s important that all new midwives learn to provide this quality of care from the start. These standards will be in place for the next ten years and new challenges – new diseases, new technologies, changing social contexts – will certainly emerge. The standards will ensure midwives have the knowledge and flexibility to be able to adapt to whatever the future brings."

 

ENDS

Further background

  1. For further media enquiries, please contact the NMC press office on 020 7681 5415 or email media@nmc-uk.org.
  2. The final Future Midwife standards will go before the NMC’s public Council meeting on 3 October 2019 for further consideration. If approved, the standards will first take effect in September 2020 and be fully implemented by September 2021
  3. To read more about the final standards going before council on 3 October 2019, see here.
  4. The full October council papers are available here
  5. Perinatal mental health problems are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child.
  6. The new standards were informed by the best current evidence and aligned with policy in the four countries of the UK. They have been informed by the Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework (QMNC), as published in The Lancet series on midwifery (2014). 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.

As part of this, the NMC carried out a 12-week consultation which saw hundreds of people attending workshops, signing into webinars, sharing their views and providing great feedback.

To ensure a wide range of voices were heard from, the NMC organised:

  • Fourteen workshop events in seven cities, in all four countries of the UK
  • Visits to maternity units around the country to take views from midwives in practice
  • Joint events with key stakeholders, including the Royal College of Midwives and the Council of Deans of Health
  • Two roundtable events to hear feedback from advocacy groups as well as other health and care professionals and their representative organisations
  • Exhibitions at important conferences around the country to raise awareness of the new standards
  • Four webinars that focused on answering questions from educators, midwives and interested groups and organisations
  • Two Twitter chats, one in partnership with the Council of Deans of Health, to take views from people who were unable to attend an event in person
  • Qualitative engagement with seldom heard and underrepresented groups, such as the Travelling community and the LGBT+ community

Throughout the process, the standards were also informed by the Future Midwife Thought Leadership Group, a group of midwives, educators, student midwives, policy makers, representatives from advocacy groups and experts from across the midwifery and maternity community in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The group met ten times over a two year period, refining the draft standards based on the best current evidence and ensuring alignment to policy in the four countries of the UK.

More than 3,000 people attended events, meetings and conferences during the consultation. The NMC received over 1600 responses from midwives, other health professionals, women and their families. The final version of the standards has been amended to adapt the feedback received.