The Nursing and Midwifery Council is to undertake an immediate review of the way midwives are regulated because of fears mothers and babies are being put at risk.
The move was announced after the body’s council meeting this week. It follows a report by the health service ombudsman in December, which identified worrying “weaknesses” in the current system of midwife supervision and regulation.
Dame Julie Mellor’s report drew together findings from investigations into the high profile deaths of three babies and a mother at Furness Hospital, run by Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust.
Dame Julie identified common failings in regulatory arrangements that meant poor midwifery practice was not tackled and concluded the cases highlighted a “potential muddling” of the supervisory and regulatory role of midwife supervisors.
Dame Julie Mellor
“The current system operates in a way that risks failure to learn from mistakes,” her report said. “This cannot be in the interests of the safety of mothers and babies, and must change.”
After consulting health and regulation bodies, she called for midwifery regulation and supervision to be separated and said the NMC should have direct control of regulation.
The NMC should work together with NHS England and the Department of Health to develop proposals to put these two key recommendations into effect, she said.
In a statement issued today, the NMC council said it accepted there was a “structural flaw” in the current framework for regulating midwives.
“The NMC was pleased to see that the ombudsman’s report noted that midwifery supervision may have real merit but the structure for investigation and regulation needed an urgent review,” it said.
“The review will initially address the specific findings of the ombudsman’s report, before looking at the strengths and weaknesses of supervision and its place in the statutory framework,” the NMC stated. “It will consider the effective and proportionate regulation of midwives and will involve organisations across the UK.”
Midwife supervision has been seen as a beacon of good practice that other healthcare professions aspired to. Organisations, including the Royal College of Midwives, said it was vital the many benefits of midwife supervision were not lost amid any regulatory changes.
Are you able to Speak out Safely?
Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS