Words must be turned into action to eradicate bullying and harassment affecting midwifery and neonatal staff, the Royal College of Midwives has said ahead of a congress held in Scotland this week.
Shifting the culture of bullying and harassment and ensuring dignity at work for NHS staff in Scotland is at the heart of a motion due to be put forward by the RCM at the Scotland’s Trade Union Centre congress in Dundee.
“We have to hold employers to account to ensure words are turned into action and bullying and harassment are eradicated from the NHS”
The RCM will also move a motion for the implementation of the five-year plan for improving maternity and neonatal services, better known as ‘Best Start’.
Both motions will be put forward by the RCM at STUC 122nd congress which starts today and finishes on Wednesday.
Commenting on the motion for ‘Dignity at work’, Dr Mary Ross-Davie, RCM’s director for Scotland said: “Workplace culture significantly affected by demands on staff and how staff are treated, has a direct effect on patient care, equality in the workplace is fundamental to reducing inequalities in care.”
According to the royal college, a ‘Caring for you’ campaign was developed to help protect its members.
A member survey carried out as part of this campaign found that over half of RCM members had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from service users or their families in the last 12 months. In addition, a third of members reported being on the receiving end of this from a manager.
For this motion, the RCM will call on the STUC General Council to “support unions in seeking to change cultures, which recognise and empower the dignity of workers in all circumstances”.
Dr Ross-Davie also said ahead of the congress: “While we acknowledge the laudable aims of programmes such as the ‘I Matter’ approach to team building in the NHS in Scotland, we have to hold employers to account to ensure words are turned into action and bullying and harassment are eradicated from the NHS.”
In a second motion from the RCM – titled Implementation of the five year forward plan for maternity and neonatal care in Scotland: Best Start – the college will say that it welcomes the policy.
The RCM is due to explain that if implemented correctly, the plan could improve care and outcomes for women and their families.
However, it will also warn that it requires a “major shift” in maternity services and in how midwives and maternity support workers work.
Ahead of this motion, Dr Ross-Davie said: “The proposed new model of maternity care in Scotland is built around continuity of carer.”
She explained that the plan means a woman will receive a midwife who they know, from antenatal right through the birth.
“RCM Scotland has argued over the last two years that we need the right conditions and staffing levels for these changes to be safely implemented,” she said.
“RCM’s lobbying has led to £12m of ring-fenced funding, increased student midwife numbers and a review of the midwifery workforce planning tool and as the policy is implemented, the RCM wishes to ensure that the Scottish government and health boards approach this process in the true spirt of partnership working,” she said.
Dr Ross-Davie went on to warn that, although many members are “keen to work in this way,” a significant number are “concerned about the demands of being on call and the potential impact on their work life balance”.
“Midwives will need time, training and support to feel confident to work in different ways,” she said. “Midwives’ needs for adequate rest and time off must be respected in any model of care.”
She added: “The pace of change should not be forced, implementation of such a significant change must be undertaken in a measured way, ensuring that lessons from early adopter sites are heeded.”
The RCM’s motions will be discussed and voted on at the STUC 122nd congress at the start of this week.