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Think-tank tasked with historic review of midwife regulation

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has commissioned the King’s Fund to carry out an independent review into the regulation of midwives.

The review marks the first review of the statutory framework of midwifery regulation since midwives became a regulated profession in 1902.

It was sparked by a report from the health service ombudsman in December, which identified worrying “weaknesses” in the current system of midwife supervision and regulation.

The 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.

It 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.

The NMC announced in January that it would carry out an “urgent review” of the system, acknowledging there was a “structural flaw” in the current framework for regulating midwives.

The regulator subsequently announced on 1 May that it had asked the King’s Fund to carry out the work.

The review will consider the concerns identified in the ombudsman’s report, in particular the potential conflict of interest between Supervisors of Midwives’ regulatory and supervisory roles. 

It will also explore potential models for the future of midwifery regulation across the UK.

NMC chief executive and registrar Jackie Smith said: “I am delighted that the King’s Fund will carry out the review of this important function.

Jackie Smith

Jackie Smith

“We are looking forward to working with them and with key stakeholders across the UK to make sure that the regulation of midwives continues to be effective across modern care settings, with public protection at its core”.

Julie Mellor, the parliamentary and health service ombudsman, welcomed the commissioning of the review in response to her report.

“We look forward to a robust exploration of the separation of midwifery supervision and regulation to ensure the improved safety of mothers and babies in the future,” she said.

On completion of the review, the King’s Fund’s recommendations will be presented to the NMC council.

The UK has 41,746 registered midwives. Of these, 2,389 are registered as supervisors of midwives.

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