NMC Consultation: Midwifery Committee Concerns

Guest Blog By Beverley Lawrence Beech and Emma Ashworth of AIMS

Last week I wrote about the proposed changes to the NMC that the DoH is currently consulting on.  While they work on removing Supervision, they are trying to slip in the removal of the midwifery committee at the same time.

This is how the NMC describes the Midwifery Committee:

The Midwifery Committee advises the Council on:

· any matter affecting midwifery, such as policy issues affecting midwifery practice, education and statutory supervision of midwives,

· responding to policy trends,

· research, and

· ethical issues affecting all registrants.

The Midwifery Committee’s recommendations and subsequent Council decisions influence midwifery development in the UK, which affects the lives of individual women and their families under the care of UK midwives.

(for full text, click here)

The consultation states, “Although the NMC regulates two professions, nurses and midwives, the NMC is only required by its legislation to have a statutory midwifery committee to advise the NMC Council on matters relating to midwifery. It has no similar requirement to have a statutory nursing committee and none of the other healthcare professional regulators have a comparable statutory committee. The government has a policy objective to streamline and rationalise regulatory legislation.

However, let’s look at how the NMC is made up.  For every 1 midwife there are more than 12 nurses.  The other healthcare professional regulators do not need to have their own representatives because they are their own representatives, not lost in the noise of another profession. Of course it did not have a requirement to have a statutory nursing committee, the government was forced into legislating for a statutory midwifery committee as a result of the protests from midwives and lay groups who felt that without a statutory requirement midwives would just be absorbed into the nursing profession.

Let’s look at some more history.  When in 1983 the government proposed a single ‘nursing’ professional council, despite opposition from midwives, AIMS and other groups, they amalgamated the Central Midwives Board into the UK Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting which, in 2002 became the Nursing and Midwifery Council.  The midwives fought for a separate Midwifery Council but lost, although as a sop to their concerns, a review in five years was promised.  It never happened.

Since 2002 the Midwifery Committee has been gradually reduced so that there are now only seven members, of which only two are practicing midwives, and in recent years  its support staff have been withdrawn, the dedicated office closed down,  and there is now only one midwife on the main Nursing and Midwifery Council.

A few years ago the NMC was awarded a £20m government grant for the NMC to address ‘the problems it faces in terms of administration and management’.  But this is but one of the problems.  As far as midwives and users of the service are concerned there is a far greater problem -the dichotomy between nursing and midwifery practice.

Over recent years, too many excellent practising midwives (most of them independent midwives) have been reported to the NMC, and some have been struck off.  Unfortunately, midwives are no longer judged by their peers.  AIMS members have observed hearings where, for example, a community midwife was judged by a labour ward manager who, clearly, was not up to date with the research and, from his questions, had no concept of the principles of informed consent.

Take the case of Beatrice Carla for instance.  AIMS members observing the case soon realised that this case was not only about Ms Carla’s individual practice, but encapsulated the struggle between midwifery evidence, knowledge and skills, and accepted medical evidence, protocols and policies. This struggle was very apparent among the panel members. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this case was that while the Chair of the panel, Professor Paul Lewis, who was an exemplary Chair, showing fairness, care, courtesy and regard towards all concerned, he had repeatedly to draw the attention of the other panel members to the research evidence on maternity/midwifery care.  It is a serious issue that the NMC has failed, and is continuing to fail, to address.

Until midwives have their own Midwifery Council and allegations of failure in practise are judged by expert midwives these injustices will continue and women will be deprived of skilled midwives who really understand the meaning of normal, undisturbed, physiological birth, informed consent and women-centred care.  The removal of the midwifery council from the NMC leaves midwifery practice being judged by those who are in an entirely different role.  Would doctors accept their cases being considered by nurses?

The real fear is that the changes will lead to midwives being forced to become obstetric nurses, losing the autonomy that has been fought so hard for, for so many years.

There is a General Medical Council and a General Dental Council, so why is it not possible to have a General Midwifery Council?

Please, respond to the consultation and raise these concerns.  Your response is desperately needed.

Consultation link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/518039/NMC_regulation_consultation_document_A.pdf


Proposed NMC Midwifery Changes: Modernisation or Mutilation?

Guest blog by Emma Ashworth

The Department of Health has released its consultation document on proposed amendments to the NMC and ALL midwives should read it, understand it and comment on it.  This consultation has put together a number of different proposals, each of them hugely important in and of themselves, and each which need to be addressed and considered separately.

I have long been irritated by the fact that when consultations are drafted, their wording is directive, designed to influence the outcome to that which the Consulter wants.  This NMC consultation is no different.  The title, “…amendments to modernise midwifery regulation and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of fitness to practise processes” states that this is what the amendments will achieve.  Who doesn’t want modernisation? Who would disagree with improving effectiveness and efficiency? Who wouldn’t want fitness to practice processes improved?  And yet… let’s look at those words.  “Modernise”.  Not changes, but modernisation.  Removing Statutory Supervision is not an alternative way of supporting midwifery practice, but a “modernisation”.  As is pointed out to Arthur Dent, “there’s no point lying down in the path of progress!” but when there’s a large yellow digger coming to knock down your ability to support women to access services outside of guidelines then shouldn’t we all be lying down in the mud?  (Note: if you don’t know why people are lying down, or why diggers, once you’ve read and commenting on the DoH’s proposal, go get a pint of beer, a towel, and read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”)

Statutory Supervision was torn apart following the Morecombe Bay enquiry, where it was decided that there was a problem with the combined role of the Supervisor to both support midwives in their caseloads and at the same time be responsible for investigating complaints against them.  This has been a concern of a number of people before the enquiry, but a solution that did not remove both functions was not investigated by either the DoH or the NMC.  A “modernised” Supervision role should surely create a way that both roles could be fulfilled without any conflict of interest.  For example, two different roles might be created with different people in the Trust holding them, or the investigation of complaints might be moved to the LSA, and the supportive role of the Supervisor be kept within the midwives as is the current position.  There may be a number of ways that this could happen which would not remove the vital role of supporting midwives to support women, and it is this role which is being removed from being statutory.  This is the absolute crux of the issue.  If something is not statutory Trusts will not do it.

The devastating, NHS destroying Health and Social Care Act meant that the CCGs have absolute power to decide on care services, with nothing other than emergency care being mandatory.  We have all seen the catastrophic slashing of services across all areas, not just maternity. We can’t even invest to save, for instance by creating a continuity of carer service which we know would drastically improve outcomes and save vast amounts of cash, even if it takes work and a small investment to set up.  There is a cost to supporting Supervision. How likely is it that it will continue when it is not a requirement?  What will midwives do, then, when they are trapped between women’s needs and wishes, and “guidelines”?  What will you do?

Have your say and respond to the consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/518039/NMC_regulation_consultation_document_A.pdf

Read more: https://www.rcm.org.uk/news-views-and-analysis/views/department-of-health-releases-consultation-on-nmc

Next: Abolishing the statutory Midwifery Committee



Review of the “Celebrating Continuity, Rhetoric into Reality, Policy into Practice” Conference

The 13th April brought us “Celebrating Continuity, Rhetoric into Reality, Policy into Practice” a conference created through a collaboration between AIMS, RCM, The Positive Birth Movement, Neighbourhood Midwives and a Birmingham NHS Trust.

So many exciting themes came out of the conference, together with discussions of common concerns and their solutions.  One quote from Beverley Turner underlined the whole of the day, “Women should be utterly supported throughout birth, and never just “winging it with a stranger”.  I would equally say that midwives should be able to support women through birth having clearly understood their needs and wishes via a relationship built through pregnancy, and not left just “winging it with a stranger”.

An interesting comment from Baroness Julia Cumberledge, following a question by Ruth Weston of Aquabirths, addressed the frustration of so many campaigners that CCGs were unaccountable, even to Monitor.  She announced that she was working in a team which was developing a new framework which, if accepted, would give the power to evaluate CCGs and influence their practice.  This could be transformational for continuity campaigns where CCGs are refusing to implement what is safest, cheapest and gives the best outcomes for families.

There was an important reminder at this conference that maternity is not just about getting a baby out, but at it’s core, it’s building Healthy, Happy Families.  It was noted by Professor Lesley Page of the RCM that within caseload models of care, we see a reduced level of child protection intervention.  While child protection falls outside of the maternity tariff, and is therefore not considered as an outcome of good maternity care, it is likely that it means that continuity of carer under a caseloading model leads to better bonding between parents and their babies, and a stronger family into the future.

One fear raised by an audience member was that midwives would be on call for weeks on end, and that was unsustainable, and indeed this is a concern that worries many.  The response given was that there are many necessary models of midwifery, and there is space for all needs, including shift work and midwifery teams.  Indeed, it was pointed out that fragmented, busy labour wards where midwives can’t take a break is leading to midwifery burnout all over the country, not only with our qualified midwives, but the trainees, too, as shown in this heartwrenching Facebook post which went viral recently.

A combination of talks and workshops, this event was hugely informative and inspirational.  Looking for positive ways to work on the implementation of continuity and caseloading, addressing the concerns and questions that came up, and reinforcing the message of support for each other.  A fantastic day with fantastic people, the conversations are continuing and the changes will happen!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/celebratingcontinuity/

Twitter: #continuity2016

Report by Emma Ashworth

Supporting mums: breastfeeding a baby with Down’s syndrome

Magdalena's Milk bookcoverJPG.jpg

Guest Blog by Anita Kolaczynska

Our youngest daughter, Magdalena, is ten and just had a party with twenty of her friends. She breastfed into her fifth year, when she self-weaned. She enjoys karate, Brownies, horse-riding and swimming. She likes to eat pitta bread and humous while watching T.V. She doesn’t like babies or being rushed. Her happiest place is outside, helping out with our goats and hens. She is fascinated by the natural world; delighting in recounting extraordinary animal facts. Her and her big sisters get up to the usual sibling fun and mischief and Magdalena stars in an annual documentary series that one of them makes about their life together. The award winning films are called ‘My Little Sister (who happens to have Down’s syndrome)’

When someone you are supporting to breastfeed has a diagnosis of their baby having Down’s syndrome, the mind is likely to conjure up a different image to the person that I’ve described above. Most people are unlikely to imagine an individual with her own interests and character, who feels the whole range and depth of human emotions and who is fully included in family life and her community. In truth, just as no two people are alike, no two people with Down’s syndrome are alike, so why we should build any picture at all is crazy-but we do. So, cancel those pictures and projections of what you think you know and instead see the baby you have in front of you and focus on what her needs are now this minute, this hour, this day.

When a baby is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, the baby is often talked about as a collection of potential medical issues. A plethora of professionals are involved using medical jargon, often giving conflicting information as they test, diagnose, examine, fill out paperwork – the overload of information and aura of anxiety about an uncertain future, can leave the parents feeling left without a voice and disturbed that their baby is not being treated as an individual. Within this vulnerable context many mums get told ‘Downs babies don’t breastfeed’

Putting aside for a minute that this statement isn’t true, look at what else the mum is hearing here.

  1. Her baby is being defined, therefore limited, by having an extra chromosome.
  2. Her baby is already being talked about in terms of what she can’t do.

This is why “person first” language is important. Please say: ‘a baby with Down’s syndrome’ This way the individual comes first, the condition does not define the person. Read the guidelines on what to say/not say and educate people where you can:


Babies with D.S. do breastfeed successfully. Those who experience difficulties may take longer getting breastfeeding established but with the right support can go on to have the breastfeeding relationship they want.

Mythbust-If the baby is having difficulty feeding from the breast then the bottle will be easier.

Not true, the baby is likely to tire just as easily and find the co-ordination skills needed to feed just as difficult, the same patience and persistence will be needed, whether feeding with breast or bottle.

The benefits of breastfeeding dramatically increase for a baby with D.S. Conditions that are more common, such as lowered immunity, respiratory infections, constipation, low muscle tone, all improve with breastmilk and of course breastfeeding aids in the development and co-ordination of oral muscles as a pre-cursor to speech.

Babies with Down’s syndrome are commonly slower to gain the initial weight lost after birth.  Many professionals are not using the growth charts specific to D.S. The weight loss and different feeding needs to a typical baby can trigger fear and panic and escalate to hospitalisation/drip/formula, ending the breastfeeding relationship and leaving the mother robbed of her choices and doubting her instincts.

This is why the support of a breastfeeding counsellor is so valuable.  You may be the only person who, through responsible monitoring of all the signs of thriving, has the courage with the mother to wait. By supplying the mother with accurate information and supporting the mother to stay close to her baby at all times, and learn how to recognise and respond to her baby’s cues you are also empowering her to take ownership of her baby back and upholding her ability to nurture and mother.

-Make sure the right growth charts are being used. You can download charts here:

Growth charts specific to babies with D.S.


A trained breastfeeding counsellor will assess each mum and baby as individuals and suggest ways to address specific issues.  Don’t compare her baby with other typically developing babies or other babies with D.S. Compare this baby with itself, notice progress and celebrate each small step.

Common issues when a baby with D.S. is having difficulty breastfeeding:

Mainly these arise through a heart problem and or hypotonia (low muscle tone)

Heart problems get fixed with surgery and hypotonia improves as the baby develops.

The issues that present can be all or any of the following:

Sleepy babies-extreme tiredness/lack of energy/falls asleep after a few sucks

This means waking your baby up to feed every few hours throughout the day and night. Feeding little and often, lots of little breaks within a feed to keep baby awake and allow milk to digest. Maximising signs of readiness to feed, don’t wait when you see lips/eyelids move slightly. Stimulating baby to keep feeding through massaging/blowing/taking off clothes, wake up if falling asleep after a few sucks by changing nappy, putting back to the breast…

Poor latch, difficulty maintaining latch

Experiment with supportive positions to support baby and breast, Practical breastfeeding support-use supportive positions like dancer hold, breast compression, support breast and baby’s jaw at the same time to maintain seal.

Expressing/SNS/using a syringe can be useful if baby is not feeding long enough to get sufficient hindmilk.

Massaging whilst feeding, blowing on baby’s cheek, cool flannels to keep baby stimulated and awake.

Express some milk first, if flow too strong for baby.

If baby is arching, floppy, difficult to support-try swaddling.

Smaller passageways can block easily. Keep baby’s ears above their mouth. Semi-upright positions are often better to feed in.

Can use steam infuser to clear congestion.

Massage to aid digestion.

Lots of skin to skin.

This all takes an enormous time commitment before baby gets stronger, is less vulnerable and breastfeeding happens with ease. So, lower time expectations, acknowledge everything will take longer, patience and persistence will be needed but breastfeeding will get easier. Think of 3-6 months rather than 6 weeks. For mum to be able to commit to the intensity and length of feeding her baby, good support networks are so helpful.  For instance, help with other children, meals, housework need to be put in place if possible.  There are organisations like ‘homestart’ to help if family and friends aren’t around.

So I’ve been called in to help, what do I do?

Congratulate the parents on the birth of their beautiful baby, pick her up, cuddle her, look into her eyes, notice that she looks like mum/dad/big sister…smile and be joyful that you have the privilege of meeting this new life and have a valued role in supporting this mum and her baby.

-Go to the D.S.A. website http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/about-downs-syndrome/truth-and-fiction/

Familiarise yourself with the myths and outdated language, choose to evolve the future by not perpetuating the stereotypes of the past where our babies with D.S. were institutionalised and deemed uneducable. There are leaflets for new parents and a free helpline. Make sure your mum knows about these.

-Don’t assume you know more than the mum or how she is feeling; empower her to get to know her baby by watching for cues of readiness to feed.

-Acknowledge her commitment, time, patience and the value of what she is choosing to do ‘I am here to support your choices’

Watch and share these films to educate and change perceptions about Down’s syndrome

My Little Sister (who happens to have Down’s syndrome)

Positive uplifting documentary series about real life with a sibling with D.S.


Keep Calm MLS logo copyright

Agi with her little sister Magdalena

Anita Kolaczynska’s little book and ebook ‘Magdalena’s milk-Breastfeeding and Down’s syndrome’ is to be published later this year. Anita is available for consultations, runs workshops and gives presentations about Down’s syndrome and breastfeeding. You can contact her at:




The new suffrage movement

Friday night: I have just arrived back from watching Suffragette at the fantastic Llanfyllin Community Cinema.  I say I have arrived back but first I hadto make my way to the wetlands – my place of solitdue and thought – to sob my heart out.

That film recalled to me the immense bravery, tenacity and courage of the women of the suffrage movement and especially the suffragettes.  It reminded me of the suffering women under went to gain basic human rights.  The awful suffering.

And confronted with that, who am I to complain about the slings and arrows that might come my way for campainging for quality, humane maternity care?  How can I justify hanging back when I know it is time to step up to the challenge. When the lives of women and babies, families and communities depend on it.

I have indeed struggled for the last 2 years with a kind of slow burn exhaustion, I am indeed overworked and have a family to care for.  But so did these women and that is when it takes real courage and fortitude.

So again and now I step up to the challenge, I carve out the time, I pick up my pen and my laptop and I do my bit.  Thankyou film makers for recalling me to myself, thankyou to all those who are working for change and are so supportive, thankyou brave and courageous women who showed us the way: yours are the shoulders we stand on.






What is so difficult about Implementing Continuity of Carer?

Here is the script for the AIMS talk I gave at York University on Saturday 21st November. What do you think?

What is so difficult about delivering continuity of carer?

We thought we had made it in 2013 when the NHS mandate stated that maternity services must
“ensure that every woman has a named midwife who will make sure she has personalised, one to one care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and during the postnatal period, including additional support for those who have a maternal health concern.”

We have the empirical data now, how birth reduces miscarriage before 24 weeks, reduces prem labour and still birth. We know midwifery care from someone you know and trust care reduces the perception of pain, we know that intervention and instrumental deliveries are reduced and so on. And we know that women who have it want it again – they know the difference and want that relationship. We also know that it does not need to be just one midwife – one midwife is really important but actually two or three midwives is quite do-able for a woman to trust and relate to. Sandall talks of up to six midwives in her research being very clear about that: this is NOT 121 care she told a conference. But it is also not a parade of strangers walking in and out of your birth room with no connection to you, no investment in your wellbeing.

WE had the evidence, we had the policy, but implementation has got stuck every step of the way.

I think a good analysis of the nature of our dilemma is summarised in this clip from Yes Minister. The Department of Administration is implementing a national integrated databased. Jim Hacker the new incoming Minister is trying to ensure there are safeguards for individual liberties built into the database. But he is struggling to get anything to happen. He decides to go and talk to his opposite number who had held the post before the election. Here goes:

So what are the tactics of obstruction? :
1.  Administration is very new – there are alot of other things you should be getting on with
2.   Are you sure this is the right way to achieve it?
3.   It is not the right time – for all sorts of reasons
4. Practical Problems
• Technical problems
• Political problems
• Legal problems
• Administrative problems
5.   It is too late – there is not enough time before the next election

‘They will stall at every stage and will do nothing unless they are chased up.’

I would suggest this is why we are struggling to delivery continuity of carer. There are a range of technical financial and practical difficulties to be overcome. But if we sit down and work them through there will be a solution. However, this does not happen, challenges are thrown at us mixed together in a mishmash of politically motivated, genuine difficulty, emotional stuff and indifference to the issue.

Using Yes Minister as our starter for 10 let us look at some of the genuine barriers to implementation and what some key strategists say about them, look at a positive example of change and the key factors that could work elsewhere, before looking at what went wrong in Yorkshire – to think what could be done better. Finally what we can do.

Practical Problem: Strategic Finance: The money is not there to sustainably deliver this kind of care.

A couple of years ago Beverley Beech invited me at short notice to a consultation meeting at the House of Lords with Baronness Cumberledge and miraculously I could go! There I met Belinda Phipps then CEO of NCT. We had a good conversation – especially after I admitted that I had planned my question on the train down! My big question was – why are providers and the CCGs seeking to block any shift towards caseloading when the evidence base is so strong. I took notes on her answers turned them into a blog post with her approval and you can find it today on Born Stroppy. I would commend it for reading but here is an exert:

… in reality, in an Acute Trust 85% of costs are fixed which means that a per treatment cost … does not work because the building, equipment and staff need to be available even if the C-Section is not done. So there maybe little difference in cost for a Trust between a 15% C Section rate and 25% C- Section rate in terms of costs to them. But they rely on the income – often to fund the fixed costs for other services, – and so any fall in the election CS rate means they cannot cut costs because so many of the costs are fixed. This can result in financial problems
This means a ratchet mechanism operates which drives the C-section rate up irrespective of clinical need.
The new PbR system allocates women at booking to a risk category ( low medium and high) of course there is now an incentive in monetary terms to allocate women to a higher risk category to raise income levels thereby delivering more women into the Consultant led system.

What would work is a payment of x per birth ( where x is total cost of maternity in UK minus necessary admin costs not borne by providers divided by number of births) with a deprivation payment per woman for those from the most deprived postcodes ( bit like the pupil premium). This should be paid per birth and the provider take the risk. Effective providers would benefit by making sure they did all the preventative work they could, to keep births simple. There would have to be a rule that says the woman chooses the midwife and then irrespective the provider cannot refuse care (they would have to pay for others to provide complex care if that became necessary). However this would require the NHS to break its mental rule of cost=price at a treatment level.
This would also work better than the block contract approach.
Another option is to give the woman the budget – and I like that option too.

In concert with this, the capital changes have to be changed from a charge on space (as now) to a charge on people (a capitation charge) so the payment has to be made irrespective of treatment location which would remove the drive to treat people inside buildings in acute trusts unless this was clinically necessary.

You know I think CNST (the NHS litigation insurance payment system) and its equivalents in other countries needs to change so that prevention and watchful waiting is rewarded with lower fees. And that the focus of CNST should stop being solely about being safe during intervention – without regard for how necessary or unnecessary it is.

Then there is the whole business of care being carried out in organizations where the governance and the building is aligned. They don’t need to be! and a system set up across trusts with the service and governance aligned rather like clinical networks with teeth would probably work better, certainly for maternity.

Case-loading without the rule changes above is only a partial solution to this dilemma and is difficult to sustain because of the above.

It is a huge chunk of stuff to take in – so spend some time on the blog – but it is absolutely clear that there are some big barriers to caseloading, here in the often archane structures of the NHS. which align buildings with healthcare, and pays for activity rather than health. This means cutting your C-Section and raising your HB levels may not save you money – even though on paper it should. It may explain that whilst Birthplace say FMUs work financially, they are still being closed down.

These issues are real but CAN be tackled and overcome – in the case of Birmingham Women’s below the finance issue was turned on its head as the Provider and CCG acknowledged that capacity and finance should DRIVE them to low risk women having homebirths and births in MLUs.

But first let us listen to the voice of a Strategic Finance director in Wales tackling big financial principles behind the financial policies:

Alan Brace Finance and Procurement Officer, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Wales. Health is a devolved responsibility in Wales.

Alan started with a photo of the gaping jaw of a crocodile: with costs going up and funding going down and the gap between the two widening. Our new focus he said is not the 5 million pounds we were planning for but just 1.1 million pounds to spend. And differently in Wales to England – the cuts come earlier and harder here.

Listen to this: Alan said: People get tired of the pressure to save money all the time. Traditional cost cutting strategies destroy value in health. And he said – I don’t want a job where all I do is cut peoples budgets. More than this he said: Ill health costs the NHS money – alot of money. – so how do we DO value in healthcare?

He was NOT talking about maternity specifically at any point during his talk but listen to his questions/comments:
How do we do value in health care?

Do we use expensive staff for low level work? Do we do tests not because they are clinically necessary but because it is protocol? Compliance with care Processes rather than focussing on what is needed can prevent improvements to care – and ill health costs the NHS money. Here are cost reductions that do not require cuts in quality – quite the reverse they may improve outcomes.

He said as an NHS we focus too much on the technical ability of clinicians but really we should be focussed on outcomes – the difference the care is making not on the Doctors ability. For instance Matin Kinik measured the variation amongst surgeons showing outcomes and results – and the variation was disturbingly great. Should we not be asking ‘what difference will this procedure make to the patient?’ And ‘what techniques have the best outcomes for patients’? Because ill health costs the NHS money.
We don’t know what makes the difference to patients says Brace. We tend to cut low cost care thinking we are protecting high value care- but maybe we are not. Low cost care was actually what was needed. On Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago a GP commented that a practice had got rid of their asthma nurse to save money and found that their costs actually went up because they were now referring into hospital far more often. Brace himself, gave the example of his elderly infirm mother whose health improved under the care of careworkers and deteriorated markedly in the care of highly trained, highly paid nursing staff.

And so we need meaningful cost knowledge so we can make proper value judgements – and we don’t have that knowledge at the moment, we don’t know the true cost of what we do.

Ill health costs the NHS alot of money, so improving care to reduce ill health will reduce its costs. And we need to use the most efficient practices and the low cost staff to do that.

This analysis is done in Wales in the context of the Eniron Bevan Commission set up by the Welsh assembly and reporting to the health minister. It looks at all reforms to ensure that the NHS remains recognisable to the principles of its founder – publically owned and free at the point of care.

When we turn his perceptive gaze upon maternity care: do we find healthy women in high cost facilities being cared for by over qualified expensive staff – and having worse outcomes there than healthy women cared for in dirt cheap homes or in MLUs by much cheaper staff? Are we subjecting healthy women to a barrage of tests and measurements which efficiency and evidence do not support – Michel Odent in Birth And Breastfeeding says so. Does medical process trump what is needed and wanted by women in the care of women in many institutions? Are we focussing on the qualifications of the clinician rather than asking what difference are they making to the outcomes? Are we cutting low tech cheap staff delivering breastfeeding support and continuity of carer thinking this protects the high value Obstetric unit – without analysing the true cost benefit of doing so. Does cutting continuity of carer and breastfeeding support really save the NHS money in the short medium or long term?

Being me I did put my hand up and say – this would all apply admirably to maternity care where midwifery led care is shown to promote normality and save lives and cut NHS budgets. He smiled wryly: in maternity the fight for restructuring care was not financial but in other places. A culture for instance that sees a unit ‘downgraded’ to midwifery led, and turkeys very definitely refusing to vote for Christmas. Nevertheless, Alan Brace has surely given us a moral and economic argument for implementing caseloading relationship care. The barriers to change are not necessarily here.

So let us inch our way closer to the political and cultural issues that enable or prevent continuity of carer by looking at how policy has changed in Birmingham as FMUs and a homebirth service have been set up with sustainable funding.

The story of the Homebirth team at Birmingham Women’s from the NCT Birth place Conference in June 2015

The information here is culled from 3 talks at the NCT Birthplace Conference in Birmingham in June: from Dr Tracey Johnston, Consultant Obstetrician and until recently Clinical Director, at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital, Diane Reeves Accounting Officer for Birmingham South Central CCG; Sarah Noble Midwife lead for Birmingham Homebirth Service
A homebirth team had been mooted for a long time in Birmingham, Dr Tracey had been involved in several failed attempts to set up a homebirth team: the barriers had been too great. But now these barriers were coming down:

• Finance and tariff issues. Significant change:- introduction of more granular tariff
• Lack of published evidence-Birthplace study endorsed the safety- published 2011 BMJ And the lead clinician was clear that the Birth Place Survey had provided the incontrovertible evidence that enabled them to convince their colleagues.
• Interaction of evidence with clinical commissioning – lack of pathway from evidence to implementation. Need for leadership to do this.
• Increasing population, young city, high birth rates issues of capacity – In the circs would it not be easier to do more of the same?
• Under-used home birth service because not dedicated – on call midwives pulled into labour ward leading to women not satisfied (promised service not happening). Not promoted as a result.
• GPs wary and unconvinced about having such a service:

There are some points worth unpacking further:
1: The finance issue: the pct had turned down the HB team proposals several times over several years but the argument was now turned on its head from ‘we can’t afford to’ to ‘we cannot afford not to’:
Tracey said: ‘the birth rate increase projections give us a capacity and financial time bomb, and therefore we should not be clogging up expensive obstetric beds with healthy low risk women – the safest and cheapest place for them is home!’
2. The HB team was not given an bottomless budget, but given start up costs and the maternity tariff, with 3 years to break even. AT 240 births it is a realistic target with a realistic turnaround time in terms of increasing HB numbers in the population. In their first year they were on track to sustainability in the three years. So this is not another Airedale MAMs or Better Start programme in Bradford: in Birmingham the funding is there forever and sustainability is built into the scheme with a saving to the Trusts being made.
3. Interesting are the objections from the GPs and how this was tackled – remembering that the CCG is a membership organisation. GP survey was circulated in July 2013 and 42 surveys completed. The main concerns were, medications, GP attendance, Transfers into hospital, new baby checks. The Key concern seemed to be that they would be landed with situations beyond their competency: they would be called out to a birth or be involved in night transfers or have to do the baby checks. They were worried that they would be responsible if things went wrong when they had no control over those things. It was Clear that most GPs had little expertise in this area and were unaware of latest research on homebirth and other research findings as well as good practice – like what midwives do.
Tackling the concerns of the GPs with real information, peer to peer advocacy for GP colleagues brought the GPs on side. And 12 months into the service none of the GPs concerns have been realised.
4. Tellingly the CCG lead Dianne Reeves, the GP board lead and the hospital clinical lead ( Tracey Johnston) were all women with personal experience of homebirth (one of them against clinical advice) and so they worked together to convince their peers, and increase homebirth in the area as a public health good as well as a real option for women. I think that here, Personal experience, emotional connection to the issue as well as robust clinical evidence gave these people a commitment to its availability for other women. Could this be what is missing in our Yorkshire commissioners and clinical leads?

Key success factors here
• Evidence, data, choice and capacity issues created a mandate – ie the combination of the medical evidence, the choice agenda in public health policy and the hospital capacity issue – too many babies being born for the Obstetric Unit to cope with.
• Enthusiastic provider team (MWs and OBs), enthusiastic (female) GP commissioners- with a desire to improve choice and reduce interventions for low risk women.
• Non recurrent spending requirements- initial pump priming ie To get the results and the savings long term, initial investment had to be made.
• Work to promote it to GPs- Peer to peer education seemed to be key. Plus educational events, GP networks
• MSLC support – the MSLC kept raising this issue over years ( I get the impression that they were fed up of raising it by the end) but it kept it on the agenda until all the elements were in place. This is a message to the battle weary MSLC reps amongst us.
• “Big social conversation” engagement events- reaching diverse communities. Community participation not a top down approach. Making sure the service meets women’s needs.
• Strong leadership from CCG Commissioners – who were female, mothers and had personal experience of homebirth. It is a strategic thing.

And Dianne Reeves stated that they were Commissioning for Quality all round here

• Intra-partum transfer review and benchmarking – ensuring that transfer rates do not exceed the Birthplace average
• Continuity of care is important: 3 or fewer midwives through whole package of care. The head of the HB team said that they decided not to do 121 midwifery but team care due to staff lifestyle balance – but the standard is that women meet 3 or fewer midwives during the entire pathway. This actually meets the criteria of continuity in the Sandall Research.
• Breastfeeding rates 75%. Current rate at discharge is 80% so high BF rate is expected and being delivered
• Incident reporting and monitoring – this has to be as rigorous as in a unit
• Diversity of users – not just for hippies. Sighs.

Message to everyone out there:
• Build sustainability into your business plan
• Strong cross professional leadership needed. Key here was GP leadership.
• If it fails this time around keep pushing: its time will come.

In this example, the key elements for success were:

• Clinicians – doctors with personal experience/sympathy in key positions
• Evidence of high quality – Birthplace
• Financial and capacity imperative –
• Careful and painstaking teamwork bringing key gatekeeping groups on board ( eg GPs and women and their families).
• Long term Financial sustainability built into the package

Interestingly – and pertinent to our discussion- women are at the end of the process, they are being persuaded to make this choice now the HB service is in place. Evidence rather than demand is the driver in promoting the service to women – demand is being created for the good health of women and babies – which also saves the NHS money!

So my question, in the light of this example –

What is missing in Yorkshire (and elsewhere) when it comes to implementing the strong evidence for continuity of carer in clinical practice?

Pause for discussion and questions.

So in the light of all this positive stuff: What went wrong in Yorkshire?

That has been my question for the last 2 years. What is missing in Yorkshire – not the evidence, not the finance – is it the leadership? Is it the vision?

Here is an account I wrote 2 years ago about what happened whilst I was chair of the MSLC in the thick of it. Remember, we are trying to tease out the learning points from this negative experience. See what you make of it – what is missing in Yorkshire?

Women and organisations serving the most vulnerable women in our area were throughout my tenure as MSLC chair (2009- 2013) saying at every MSLC meeting: we need personalised care, we want personalised care, we are concerned that the Trusts are saying they cannot deliver it, we are concerned that independent midwifery is not going to be an option for those of us who are willing and able to pay for it and so our choice of having continuity of midwife carer will be entirely gone. There was no response from the outgoing PCT nor the incoming CCG. The Trusts said basically (and I am paraphrasing here) with all due respect ‘no way can we deliver this kind of care’, One Trust despite all the evidence said that women did not want this kind of care when asked. I have the minutes, letters and emails to back me

As chair of the MSLC I invited IMUK and One to One Midwives to talk about their models of care and what they could offer the NHS. I spent months setting up a meeting between One to One Midwives and the PCT/CCG at the time to discuss the possibility of this care in the poorest wards of the city, with the most vulnerable women, where infant mortality is unacceptably high. I was stone walled, patronised and ignored. They only engaged with me seriously when I started publishing the letters and emails they had sent me on my blog in May/June 2013 . . . .

All change

Then, on April 1st the world changed – and after 20 years it really felt like that! I missed it because I was on holiday!. I came home to a pile of emails. One to One (North West) Ltd had set up in Bradford. Due to the amount of interest generated, an information day had been planned. The women’s networks were hot with the news – at last independent midwifery on the NHS, at last the quality of care we had all been wanting and waiting and working for over so many years! I turned up late to the ‘drop-in’ session to find well over 100 women there complete with babes and toddlers. Tea, coffee and water had run out and there was a desperate need for a microphone! No one, least of all One to One had anticipated this interest. It was the Who’s Who of women and midwives in our region: NCT teachers, doulas, La Leche League leaders, student and experienced midwives, a couple of commissioners squashed in alongside some breastfeeding mums and burgeoning bumps. The place rocked. We were excited – at last women could choose mother centred care on the NHS and it would not cost the NHS any more money. Indeed as the invoicing was retrospective it would save CCGs money, with all the future benefits and savings that One to One’s excellent results show.

In the weeks that followed, the One to One presence in Bradford went from one midwife to five, driven by the number of referrals coming in. Women told me of their relief that at last they had a midwife who listened to them, supported them and worked out a pathway that enabled their wants and needs to be met – woman centred care!

But the good times did not last for long. One of the Trusts in our area and the CCGs were absolutely furious that One to One had begun working in the area without invitation. Although the issue had been raised at MSLC meetings, although I had written many times and asked for meetings about the delivery of continuity of carer, particularly to the 300 most vulnerable women in the area, we were told that this advent was a complete surprise, they had no notion it was going to happen. To tell the truth, I had had no notion that it was going to happen on April 1st but I had been saying for months, even years, that this was going to happen at some point. No one was listening!

So there was a huge row. Heated meetings between CCGs and One to One (North West) Ltd. The CCGs refused to pay invoices. Without any consultation with the women involved (where is the woman centred-ness in all this?), for reasons I cannot understand, and flanked by providers (which in itself surely constituted a conflict of interest), the regional division of NHS England backed up the CCG/provider alliance against women’s choice, and against One to One Midwifery (North West) Ltd. They said that women were free to refer themselves into the service, and One to One were free to deliver it, but the CCGs did not have to pay the bill! Have you heard anything so ludicrous? I run a business – that is not how business works, if it is OK for women to choose a service then it is OK for the service provider to be paid.

At a stormy MSLC meeting in July women were told:

• That they were mistaken in their choices.
• Why would a woman want to choose this service when they had so many options already available to them.
• Women do not know what they are choosing.
About One to One Midwifery they said:
• how dare they come in and destabilise our service provision.
• how dare they come here and not ask our permission first.

My only response could be, “Women should have a right to make the choice of their carers. Women do not have the choice of one to one midwifery care in the current provision. Don’t women have a right to choose their care?” I just had to repeat it over and over again – because they were not listening.

The two ordinary mothers there – both of them attending for only the second time: were intimidated by the attitude of the provider and CCG representatives. One mother said nothing at the meeting but facebooked me to say:

“I felt very intimidated after the meeting and it caused me quite a bit of stress.
I don’t really understand what the meeting is for if service users can’t describe their experience of the service, it’s providers and how they felt about it. . . . As a service user who would be described as high risk with ‘alternative”’choices, I am very attracted to what the One to One midwives are offering as I already know Bradford and Airedale cannot accommodate all of my needs, for example a named midwife.
I was at the One to One open day in Bradford the other week and the impression I got was One to One wanted to listen to my needs and accommodate me. I did not get this impression from the MSLC meeting, more that I had to fit in with what the care providers are offering, like it or lump it. Doulas and all. There was no room for discussion and the meeting was not the place for it. – you can quote me on that”

Providers and commissioners did not want to listen to what women wanted, they did not want to hear the reasons why women wanted to choose One to One midwifery care. At the MSLC meeting their voice was devalued even more when commissioners and providers said that they did not want to hear the voices of the kind of women that come to the MSLC! The CCGs are currently on the lookout for ‘ordinary women’ who do not go to MSLC meetings. They want to find out if women really do want One to One care in our district. There apparently is not enough evidence to prove women want women-centred care and they are not going to act on the medical evidence such as the Cochrane review alone – not for this clinical decision anyway.

I was told by the CCGs that:

• They don’t want a dead baby on their hands.
• Local care pathways between One to One and Trusts had not been set up and would not be set up. Both Trusts have care pathways for women with independent midwives and one Trust has set up specific care pathways with women with One to One midwives.
• Care pathways are a condition of being commissioned but being commissioned is the only way these pathways can be set up – a circular argument to keep out competition.
• I have a dossier of cases of women who say they been bullied by one of the Trusts because they have chosen One to One midwifery rather than the Trust to deliver their care.
• One to One midwives have been victimised and verbally abused by employees of some providers when attending births or hospital appointments with women.
• Both NHS providers say they cannot and will not deliver one-to-one care to women by 2015 if at all – and say that women are telling them they are happy with their care.
• then they said it is a national project and so our CCGs cannot do anything until the whole nation agrees to do something.

And there was I thinking that the CCGs were set up to be closer to their population and to commission on behalf of that population for the good of that population – not for the good of the providers. And there was I thinking that the Government policy was about choice, about women being able to make the healthy choice of having one mother one midwife care. It hurts, it hurts mightily because I really did not want my experience of care 20 years ago to go on being repeated today. I wanted my daughters to have a better quality of care than I received from the NHS.

Where things are at now

I am not on the inner circle now and exhausted had to take a step back for a while. It is very interesting as I am at the hub of a maternity network – how little I get to hear!. But here are some key points.

1. Solicitors letters have gone back and forth for years. The Commissioners continued to refuse to pay 121 Midwifery Northwest, Monitor and NHS England did sod all to ensure payment or continuation of the service women were demanding and One to One eventually had to withdraw from Yorkshire.

2. Local women were going to their GPS asking to be referred to One to One Midwives for quality care and their GPs were turning them down. It took some digging and an FOI to get the letter from the Commissioners – which basically raised a list of serious concerns all of which would be met by passing a CQC inspection which they did. Not one GP checked with CQC regarding safety of practice. The CCG letter was a cynical roose I believe to ensure no GP would refer a woman to One to One. GPs told women (and the letter implied) that they could be responsible for paying for the service out of their own budgets – GPs did not know that their referral OBLIGED the CCGs to pay – hence the letter to put them off!

3. Monitor received complaints from a local service user group about anti-competitive practice – tributes here to Airedale Mums once again. They agreed with the complaints and letters went back and forth but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENNED TO CHANGE ANYTHING.

4. Meanwhile every month at my homebirth group women complain that they still cannot choose One to One midwifery. Most don’t complain about their current midwives per se but they are not getting relationship care, nor are the midwives!

5. One further thing about this saga. As I say, I had spent months trying to get a meeting with the CCGs leads trying to bring together people for a conversation about delivering continuity of carer to the most vulnerable women in Bradford – the ones at greatest risk of losing their baby for instance. I had not got anywhere. When One to One arrived in Bradford and were having a significant impact senior managers demanded a meeting with me to discuss various conflicts of interest. I probed and discovered that they were saying that I had been advocating for 121 Midwifery because I was being paid by them – not because quite stupidly I might want implementation of medical research for the betterment of women and babies – Lord No! I wrote a letter refuting this and calling it out and sent it to everyone I could think of – all the MPs, Beverley Beech Belinda Phipps, if I had an email address I sent it. It ended that line of personal attack on me. Notice the tactic of ‘don’t play the issue play the woman’! – That is an episode in Yes Prime Minster called ‘man over board’

I did however agree to the meeting. I took in a colleague from the MSLC who would become the new Chair. I was to play bad cop (as they already had the black hat firmly on my head) and she was to play good cop. It worked like a dream for the future of the MSLC. When it came to One to One Midwifery the Commisioner wanted her say and I was all ears: She lambasted One to One Midwifery but then said that by the end of 2015 they would ensure that this care was delivered to women in Bradford and if the local providers could not do it they would commission an outside service. That was 18 months ago. We are still waiting.

So I went to the 2015 BRI AGM and asked for the details of this fantastic service which women had been promised by the end of 2015 and so should surely be celebrated. That was September 16th – I received the response this Tuesday 17th November, 2 months later. And here it is:

From an acute provider perspective we have discussed models of personalised care over a long period of time. We have taken note of the evidence, the outcome of the stakeholder event  held at the Trust last year and also the commissioners’ views

 Following the evaluation of the MAM project in Airedale our commissioner asked us to pilot an alternative personalised care model as although the Airedale pilot evaluated well from the women’s perspective there were unexpected pressures on the MAM team.

 This new project in Bradford Better Start area focuses on enhancing ante/postnatal care, continuity of care, all women in the project knowing and seeing the community midwife regularly.  Caseloads are much smaller than usual and The midwife is the key  care coordinator and contact for all women on the caseload.

 Continuity of care throughout ante and postnatal periods is a focus (which tends to become lost in projects including intrapartum care)  We are aiming for a maximum of 2 midwives ante/postnatally.

 We are  not aware that a case loading option involving intrapartum care  was promised to all women and we need to do the pilot to evaluate the model and plan sustainability. As we have highlighted previously there are no Trusts in the UK where ‘one to one’ style care is a universal offer as it is complex and expensive to roll  to roll out across a whole service; there still needs to be a core hospital based services and this has to be staffed as well as the case loading teams. This is why we have decided to use the chosen model as a pilot.

So what went wrong in Yorkshire? Lots of things that is for sure. And that question is one for our discussion – alongside the more positive question: what do we do differently in Yorkshire to get a different scenario? But in the light of the previous stuff we can pull out some ideas:

• A lack of vision and leadership over several years – we don’t have peer to peer mentoring on this issue within and across professions
• This is not a priority for CCG commissioning, nor local Trust provision. This has not been something to be worked towards.
• Key people do not believe this is deliverable and so despite the great need chose not to engage with anyone with a different view point
• There was a lack in partnership working therefore across sectors, people who should be working together are viewed as competitors, women’s demands for this care are seen as threats – labelling ordinary women as hippies and ‘those kind of women’ once more devaluing our input so that they don’t need to regard it.
• Geraldin Butcher at the RCM conference said: New Zealand Midwifery only flourished after identifying with women and actively involving women in decision making.

And if Monitor had teeth and NHS England had backbone and the NHS mandate was a serious piece of policy to be implemented rather than a ‘nice to have’ maybe things would have been different. And if we had vision and leadership from those with most power and influence in the system rather than kicking it into the long grass with another Maternity Review – things may have shifted because good quality maternity care – continuity of carer- is an investment in health that saves the NHS money whilst saving baby’s lives and women’s health. Remember ill health costs the NHS alot of money!

So what do we need?

We need cando leadership– looking at the barriers to change whether it be GP attitudes, Midwives burnout or financial constraint- and instead of using them as reasons for inaction, sit down and work out a way to overcome the barriers. Example after example I have found across the UK shows that with the right attitude barriers to implementing new and improving services – including continuity of carer – have a solution: The biggest barrier is the willingness of leaders to take this challenge on.

What needs to change and what can we do?

We need vision and leadership in Yorkshire and so we need to seek out allies and friends in Trusts and CCGs and other organisations and we need to recruit clinicians, commissioners and HOMs with vision and commitment to making this happen. We need to find the Diane Reeves, the Tracey Johnstones and so on, of Yorkshire – we need people to stand up to the plate and play their part as we play ours. We need visionary midwives with ideas and plans and strategies, with courage and audacity to make them happen. We need MSLC Chairs and reps who just keep the subject on the agenda month after month, year after year, passing the baton down to the next generation until it happens.

And we need activists, many many activists, mothers, doulas, birthworkers who keep asking for care they don’t get, keep complaining, keep writing letters, keep asking questions at public meetings, keep raising the issue in ‘consultations’ and Reviews, keep organising and marching at demos. People who will talk to women about good birth and good care in supermarkets, in toddler groups, at the school gate, in the cafes and pubs, on Radio, on TV in social media and in the newspapers. Women and men who ensure that the demand for quality maternity care is never off the agenda and that every mother father and grandparent knows the difference between the care they are getting and what they should have.

I was in despair really writing the end of this talk because what difference can I make? After all the effort I and others have put in – what has been the result?: Our daughters getting the same care as we had! Then I watched Chicken Run and watched Ginger try over and over and over again to escape the chicken farm – not just herself you understand – that would have been relatively easy – but EVERY CHICKEN ON THE FARM!. And after every failure there was always another plan, another idea. She was tough and she persevered – but boy! did I cry her tears when she sat wondering what they were going to do next.
I have no big promises and prizes to offer you today, but I am not giving up – and I hope you won’t – because our daughters deserve better and so do we!

Continuity of Carer: Summary for CCGs and the National Maternity Review

The hardworking, well informed and  persistent midwifery campaigner and strategist Brenda van der Kooy has once again helped us all by providing a useful summary of the research on continuity of carer and the financial and health advantages to the NHS.  She balences this against the higher cost of this care compared to the fragmented/factory model maternity/midwfery care as we have it now.  She says that for those who want continuity of carer and its benefits for themselves, their friends and their family – this, basically is what you need to tell the National Maternity Review.

Implementing Continuity of Carer

Since the recognition of the importance of ‘continuity of care’ in the Changing Childbirth Report 1993, many case loading pilots have been undertaken. Although virtually all have not continued and national rollout has not occurred, their evaluations have added to the robust evidence that ‘continuity of carer’ improves outcomes for mothers and babies and the women who experienced this care valued it very highly.

Improved outcomes that were measured include:

  • higher normal birth rates,
  • lower intervention rates,
  • reduced preterm births,
  • reduced admissions to Special Care Baby Units, and
  • increased breast feeding rates which leads to:
    • reduction of necrotising enterocolitis in babies;
    • reduction of otitis media and lower respiratory infections in babies, and
    • reduction of breast cancer in mothers.

These provide significant direct financial savings for the NHS. It has been suggested that many other medium and long term health and social benefits will also result from the outcomes of an optimal pregnancy, birth and early weeks experience for mothers and babies.

The reasons for cessation of the case loading pilots were:

  • withdrawal of or inadequate funding;
  • midwife burnout from carrying too large caseloads, and
  • difficulty recruiting further midwives into an underfunded, overstretched model.

Case load midwifery care is the only model that can provide ‘continuity of carer’ and it does cost more than the fragmented care provided by the current shift pattern model. This is in order to pay midwives appropriately for the significant on call commitment required for when their caseload of women give birth and to cap their caseload to a sustainable and safe number of women. This investment is also required to reap the ongoing life time savings from the improved health and wellbeing of mothers and their children as identified in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

The simplest way to provide this investment and for it to act as a lever for maternity providers to innovate and provide continuity of midwifery carer is to introduce a national ‘continuity tariff’. This paid to any provider who can prove that a woman was attended throughout her pregnancy, labour and the early weeks by her named midwife (or her back up).

The implication of not addressing this resource shift at national level to implement ‘continuity of carer’ will be that the opportunities for improved physical, mental health and well being for mothers and their children will continue not to be realised along with the failure to reap the significant potential ongoing financial savings.

Brenda van der Kooy RGN, RM, PGCEA, MSc Advanced Midwifery Practice

Midwifery Consultant


DoH (1993) Changing Childbirth: Part 1: Report of the Expert Maternity Group, London: HMSO

Sandall J, Soltani H, Gates S, Shennan A, Devane D.; Midwife-led continuity models versus other models of care for childbearing women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD004667. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004667.pub3.

Sandall, J., Davies, J., & Warwick, C. (2001). Evaluation of the Albany midwifery practice: final report, March 2001. Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery, King’s College. Available online at http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/599/

Outcomes for births booked under an independent midwife and births in NHS maternity units: matched comparison study BMJ 2009;338:b2060

Renfrew MJ, Pokhrel S, Quigley M et al. Preventing disease and saving resources: the potential contribution of increasing breastfeeding rates in the UK. UNICEF UK; 2012. Available from: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Baby_Friendly/R

Building Great Britons Conception to Age 2: First 1001 Days All Party Parliamentary Group

February 2015

NHS Five Year Forward View October 2014

Wesson N, Carter N.; The Search for Continuity. AIMS Journal Vol: 26. No: 3. 2014

When labour needs to start

A different way of approaching the baby’s birth. Useful techniques but also a different way of thinking about how birth begins and making a birth easy.


There are several situations when it is preferable that labour start sooner rather than later. These include-

  • prolonged pregnancy (although the WHO recognises than normal human gestation at term is 38-42 weeks many women, especially older mothers have pressure put on them to accept induction from 40-40+10 days, due to a potential increased risk of stillbirth)
  • Elevated blood pressure (gestational hypertension at term)
  • Women with type 1 or 2 diabetes at term
  • rupture of membranes at term without labour

Although some women are happy to accept induction, others would prefer labour to start naturally or are planning to birth at home so do not want o go into hospital for induction.

I have been offering a ‘Starting labour’ one to one session(in NorthWest and Wales, UK)  for the past few years and have had good results (the majority of women going into labour within 24 hours) although some people have…

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How to Commission a Homebirth Serivce – by a CCG Commissioner

Notes from 2nd July NCT Birthplace conference, Birmingham Medical School

Diane Reeves Accounting Officer for Birmingham South Central CCG:

Commissioning a Homebirth Service

These are a mixture of my notes of the presentation pulling points from the power point slides. I have labelled my comments clearly and where I have lifted slides the extra speaker comments are in italics from my notes. Italics can also denote my interpretation of what was said.

For the full slide presentation and recording go to: http://www.nct.org.uk/professional/events

Personal story –She was present at the birth of her sister in 1965, and 3 years later with her younger sister she ‘giggled’ through the birth of her brother. Diane is a GP by profession and has 4 children. Three were born at home, one against medical advice.

Comment: in her talk this experience and understanding clearly influenced her work as a clinician in this area and she was open about the fact that it had. She said that she convinced her peers with medical evidence, but her personal experience was what kept this as a priority and kept her pushing with her CCG colleagues. It also helped that her Commissioner colleague for maternity services at the CCG was a GP who, along with her siblings, had been born at home. They both felt that peer to peer discussion was what worked in pulling this off.

It was clear from Diane’s presentation, her colleague the commissioner in the audience and the senior Clinician speaker earlier in the day that there had been a number of them convinced of the need, and wanting to set up, a homebirth service in Birmingham, however, the barriers had been too great until now.

Key barriers were:

  • Finance and tariff issues- introduction of more granular tariff
  • Lack of published evidence-Birthplace study endorsed the safety- published 2011 BMJ
  • Interaction of evidence with clinical commissioning – lack of pathway from evidence to implementation. Need for leadership.
  • Increasing population, young city, high birth rates- links to capacity – easier to do more of the same?
  • Under-used home birth service because not dedicated – on call midwives pulled into labour ward leading to patients not satisfied (promised service not happening). Not promoted as a result.

GPs were also wary and unconvinced about having such a service:

What were the GPs concerns about the service?

GP HB survey findings

GP survey circulated in July 2013

42 surveys completed

Main concerns:

  • Medications •Attendance – •Transfers •New baby checks

Comment: Key concern seemed to be that they would be landed with situations beyond their competency: they would be called out to a birth or be involved in night transfers. Thought they would have to do the baby checks – but midwives can do it. Worried be responsible if things went wrong when they had no control over it. Clear that most GPs had little expertise in this area and were unaware of latest research on homebirth and other research findings.

W hat made it succeed:

  1. A cross section of convinced and committed professionals pushing for it over a long period of time. Doctors, midwives, women.
  2. Peer to peer advocacy important.
  3. Building sustainability in terms of finance and numbers is important right from the start – the service had to work on the Maternity tarrif alone – this has been a problem with past projects.

What made it happen? Key success factors

  • Evidence, data, choice and capacity issues creating a mandate – ie the combination of the medical evidence, the choice agenda in public health policy and the hospital capacity issue – too many babies being born for the Obstetric Unit to cope with.
  • Enthusiastic provider team (MWs and OBs), enthusiastic (female) GP commissioners- with a desire to improve choice and reduce interventions for low risk women.
  • Non recurrent spending requirements- initial pump priming . To get the results and the savings long term initial investment has to be made.
  • Work to promote it to GPs- educational events, GP networks Peer to peer education seemed to be key.
  • MSLC support – the MSLC kept raising this issue over years ( I get the impression that they were fed up of raising it by the end) but it kept it on the agenda until all the elements were in place
  • “Big social conversation” engagement events- reaching diverse communities (but BSC patients only at present) Community participation not a top down approach (more of this in another presentation)

I would add strong leadership from CCG Commissioners – who were female, mothers and had personal experience of homebirth. It is a strategic thing.

Commissioning for Quality

  • Intra-partum transfer review and benchmarking – ensuring that transfer rates do not exceed the Birthplace average
  • Continuity of care is important: 3 or fewer midwives through whole package of care. Another presentation by the head of the HB team said that they decided not to do 121 midwifery but team care due to staff lifestyle balance – but the standard is that women meet 3 or fewer midwives during the entire pathway.
  • Breastfeeding rates 75% – high BF rate is expected and delivered
  • Incident reporting and monitoring – this has to be as rigorous as in a unit
  • Diversity of users – not just for hippies

Diane showed a video of an interview with South Asian couple. They could not understand this thing about being given toast after the birth. She said ‘Why am I being given warm bread? Is it some kind of ritual?’ Remembering the cultural aspects of communication and birth!

Sustainability and where they are at: 240 births is the breakeven point for sustainability and in their first year they are on target to meet this point within three years. For equity however the HB team needs to be rolled out across Birmingham. Also, HB team in first year – none of the GP concerns have been realised!!!

Message to everyone out there:

  • Build sustainability into your business plan
  • Strong cross professional leadership needed. Key here was GP leadership.
  • If it fails this time around keep pushing: its time will come.

The Story of Miss Margaret the Granny Midwife

Fifteen year old Tilly Weston has done a work expereince placement with Aquabirths this week.  As part of here work she was asked to choose a DVD watch it and write a review.  Here it is:

Miss Margaret is an inspirational film that is well written following the story of a legendary Granny Midwife from Eutaw, Alabama.

Margaret Charles Smith was born in 1906 and died in 2004 at the age of 98. Margaret was brought up in Alabama by a slave woman; she was the last of 10. She grew up working in the cotton fields until she decided she wasn’t going back to the fields again and she was going to get a different job! She started as a laundry woman, and then continued to do a midwifery course after showing natural skills delivering her husband’s cousin’s wife’s babies.

She became a highly regarded midwife and delivering 3,500 babies at home (in a county population of just 10 000). She never lost a mother and never drove a car – despite travelling all over Alabama and sometimes further. There were times she delivered 4 babies a night, but she said she never gave up on a mother: using prayer and motherwit as her main tools, and patience and kind words as her main techniques.

In her words “They’ll know what they’ve got to do, if you know how to talk to them. Give ‘em love and kind words. That beats it all.”

Then she was pushed into retirement as a law was passed that midwives, like her, were no longer allowed be midwives. So Margaret Smith wrote a book named ‘Listen to me Good’. This along with her phenomenal life story inspired the next generation midwives.

I think this film was beautifully made, inspiring the watcher and emphasing the utter ‘amazingness’ of this woman’s extraordinary life despite the troubles she had being a black woman in America. It also made me think how tough things would have been for women then, how things have improved, and how things should continue to improve for women all over the world to have a comfortable birthing experience. It makes me think what an important vocation midwifery is.

The DVD is called ‘Miss Margaret’ produced by Sage Femme.

You can buy this DVD (and others) at: www.sagefemme.com

You can buy the book ‘Listern to me Good’ by Margaret Smith at http://www.amazon.com/LISTEN-TO-ME-GOOD-PERSPECTIVE/dp/0814207014

And many other online and off line book stores.

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