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Views sought by regulator on new midwifery education standards

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Midwives will play a greater role in promoting healthy lifestyles and mental wellbeing, under new draft guidelines proposed by the profession’s regulator.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has today launched a public consultation on its draft education standards for midwives in the UK.

“Midwifery education in the UK is entering an exciting new era”

Mary Renfrew

The NMC document sets out the skills and knowledge future midwives will need to learn so they can deliver safe and expert care.

The authors said the new standards, which will replace the previous 2009 guidelines, recognise the “evolving evidence base, developments in policy, and changes in the wider health and care context”.

They include an increased focus on the role of midwives in public health and health promotion, understanding social and health inequalities, and improving postnatal care, mental health and infant feeding. 

The consultation will also explore whether the three-year length of a midwifery programme needs to be longer and if preceptorship for newly qualified midwives should be mandatory, as previously reported by Nursing Times.

Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, said: “This is a great opportunity not only for midwives but for women, families and other health and care professionals to shape the future of midwifery in the UK for years to come. 

Andrea Sutcliffe

Andrea Sutcliffe

Andrea Sutcliffe

“We’ve used the best current evidence and worked in partnership with the midwifery community, women and their families to develop these draft standards,” she said. 

Ms Sutcliffe said public feedback would be “vital” in getting the standards right and she urged anyone with an interest in midwifery to get involved in the consultation.

Under the plans, midwives will be required to work with professional partners to promote breastfeeding, including providing “protection” for women who want to breastfeed in public.

“We’ve used the best current evidence…to develop these draft standards”

Andrea Sutcliffe

Midwives will also be expected to ensure mothers receive care from the same group of health professionals throughout her pregnancy and after the birth – known as “continuity of care”.

In addition, there is a strong emphasis on effective multidisciplinary working.

Meanwhile, education institutions will have to make sure students are equipped with appropriate digital and technological skills.

The “drivers for change” noted by the NMC include increasing complexity of care due to issues, such as maternal obesity and diabetes, and also from women becoming pregnant at an older age.

The standards have also been adapted to recognise “growing poverty and inequalities” and what the regulator describes as “the clear need to improve services after birth and for women’s and children’s mental health and wellbeing”.

In addition, they have taken into account staffing challenges in the NHS and high-profile failings in maternity care since 2009, that have “increased public scrutiny” of maternity services.

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Mary Renfrew

A document released to support the consultation process stated: “Although there are many examples of safe, quality midwifery care, the findings from public enquiries into these failings has reinforced the need to develop new standards that are fit for purpose in terms of the knowledge, skills and attributes required to provide safe, effective and compassionate care at the point of registration.”

Mary Renfrew, professor of mother and infant health at the University of Dundee, who lead the development of the standards, said: “Midwifery education in the UK is entering an exciting new era and the NMC’s new education standards will give the next generation the knowledge and skills they need to provide world class care in the years to come.”

Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, which has been involved in the creation of the standards, said the college would be encouraging its members to share their views in the consultation.

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Gill Walton

“It is vital that the education and training student midwives receive reflects the world in which they will be working,” she added.

The standards have drawn on the evidence from The Lancet Series on Midwifery, published in 2014.

The NMC will be seeking views on the standards over the next 12 weeks.

The finished product is due to be signed off by the regulator in November this year and then come into force in September 2020.

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