The NMC and the Independent Midwife Ban – how it affects all UK Families
From 11th January 2017, independent midwives were suddenly forbidden, with immediate effect, to attend women and their families during labour and birth, by their regulator the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council).
Going against this directive would mean being struck off and a professional investigation. The NMC say that the reason for this monumental and immediate decision is their belief that the professional indemnity cover provided by IMUK for independent midwives was inappropriate (despite stating that they refused to specify what they deemed to be appropriate, saying that is up to IMUK to decide what is best!) Now, you might be forgiven for thinking that this decision doesn’t affect you, if you and your partner have chosen to birth your baby within the care of the NHS, or you are not planning on having any more children.
However, this is not true. This decision, and the aftermath of other decisions now coming from the NMC, are going to impact on the birth choices and experiences of all families in the UK, regardless of where you choose to give birth.
Want to know how? Dad Info explores further…
Impact on choice for everyone
Consider for a moment, that a woman you deeply care about – your daughter, your sister, your wife, your partner, your friend – or indeed, a male friend/relative of yours who is also a dad-to-be – is pregnant and planning their birth, but has now had their choices for their antenatal and birth care completely taken away or severely limited.
A choice which might be absolutely crucial to them and their family.
Is it acceptable to try and force a family to give birth with someone, or somewhere, they do not wish to be by slowly taking away all other options?
Families choose to use Independent Midwives for a host of reasons. It might be due to concern over the impact of midwifery shortages at their local NHS maternity units. It might be due to a previous traumatic birth experience. It might be because their local NHS is not supporting them to birth at home. It might be that their local NHS does not have a home birth service. It might be because they want the continuity of care of having the same midwife who knows them through their antenatal care, to also attend and support their birth. These and many, many more reasons are why people choose to hire an independent midwife for their care, and up until January 2017, this was a choice open to them.
Now that choice has been taken away. From all families.
This includes families who had already made the informed decision to hire an independent midwife for their birth this month, next month, or in the next couple of months. This guillotine ruling by the NMC has left these families incredibly vulnerable with no care in place, despite the fact these are families who will have their own strong reasons for why they have chosen an Independent Midwife for their birth over the other options available. What consideration or care from the NMC has been given to the physical and emotional care of these expectant mothers and fathers?
Birthrights, the UK organisation who promote human rights in birth, have said that the actions of the NMC, “appear designed to cause maximum disruption and damage to independent midwives and the women they care for,” adding that, “we do not believe that these are the actions of a responsible regulator.”
The NMC have tried to play down the wide-ranging impact of their decision saying that it:
‘only applies to around 80 members of IMUK who rely on their indemnity scheme. In contrast, more than 41,000 midwives in the UK operate with adequate indemnity cover.’
However, this statement is misleading and can make it sound like doesn’t affect choice or will cause much in the way of repercussions.
In reality, the ‘41,000 midwives’ in their statement refers to all midwives, including all those who work within the NHS. If you want to hire a midwife who is truly independent, who works for YOU and YOUR family, a midwife who is fully qualified and experienced, but just does not work for the NHS or a private company, you now cannot.
This decision impacts on everyone who will have a baby in the future in the UK.
Impact on NHS Maternity Care
In addition, the NMC’s decision will have knock on effects for the NHS.
Consider the findings of the recent study from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), based on a survey of 2,500 women who have given birth since 2014. This highlights the repercussions of the well-documented ever-increasing shortage of midwives in the UK, whereby increasing numbers of families using NHS maternity services reporting feeling like ‘cattle’ and having issues with the standard of their care.
The action by the NMC to immediately prohibit the practice of Independent Midwives, will only further increase the workload on the NHS, exacerbating these kinds of conditions, as all those families who would have been booked with an Independent Midwife, are forced to look for alternative arrangements.
In short, even if you yourself are not considering hiring an Independent Midwife, it does not mean the impact of the NMC’s decision, will not potentially affect you and your care, or that of someone you care about, within the NHS.
Furthermore, since the decision to prohibit Independent Midwives has been made by the NMC, there have also been several other decisions to emerge from the Council, which also have far reaching impact on all expectant families in the UK.
The NMC have also stated that midwives can no longer support women and their families through labour/birth, if they are not ‘on duty’ at the time. These kinds of ‘knock-on’ ruling impacts on all midwives, so the impact of this is on all families, now or in the future, who wish to birth within the NHS too!
As an example of what this means in reality, during the pregnancy of our third child, we got to know our NHS community midwife very well. We planned a home birth under the care of the local NHS home birth team. As we had established a very positive relationship with our community midwife, we would have been most comfortable with her being at our birth, rather than a midwife we had never met. As she had gotten to know us very well, she also felt that she would like to be at our birth to support us as our midwife. She offered, as far as practicalities would allow, to attend our birth, whether she was on duty or not. What a fantastic continuity of care. She had gotten to know us incredibly well through our antenatal care, she had been through our birth wishes when completing the home birth assessment, she was going to be the one to come and do all our postnatal visits, and on top of that, she was going to be able to put all that knowledge, understanding and rapport with us to the absolute best use by also being at our birth. What an AMAZING offering from a NHS midwife. She did attend our birth and it was a fantastic experience, an experience that the NHS and that midwife could be incredibly proud to have facilitated.
How ironic that these opportunities and choices to provide such a level of outstanding service from the NHS, are now also under attack from the NMC. Especially, when in fact it ought to be a level of service everyone is actually be striving for; completely in line with all the evidence and research that shows that having this kind of continuity of care for birth, has such a positive impact on birth outcomes, including a reduction in birth complications, and the need for interventions.
The bigger picture
These decisions, made by the NMC, will directly limit the choice, as well as will potentially impact on birth experiences, for every single family who are currently pregnant or will become pregnant within the UK.
As a dad, these decisions will impact on you, or someone you care about.
To help save the future of midwifery for all families in the UK, find out more at https://saveourmidwives.co.uk/
To find out more about the recent reports of midwife shortages within the NHS and the impact this is reportedly having on families, Dad Info reports more HERE