Changes to midwifery legislation will result in a “retrograde” step for the profession as future decisions on regulating midwives will be made largely by nurses, it has been warned.
The concerns, raised by the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, are in response to government plans to overhaul laws for midwifery regulation and remove statutory supervision of midwives.
The proposals were announced last summer in the wake of the investigation by Dr Bill Kirkup into care failings at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.
“Without the voice of the midwifery committee, regulation for midwives will be largely determined by another profession”
A recommendation was made by the inquiry to separate the supervisory function from the regulatory process, after the system was deemed “ineffectual at detecting manifest problems” at Morecambe Bay. Those behind the investigation also said the problem was unlikely to be “unique to this trust”.
But a government consultation on the proposals has stated that, as part of the overhaul, it also wants to abolish the legal requirement for a midwifery committee at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which advises on regulation.
It said this was because it had a “policy objective to streamline and rationalise regulatory legislation”, noting that there was no equivalent statutory nursing committee.
“The midwifery committee is the formal route for the midwifery voice to be heard within a nursing-dominated organisation”
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick has labelled the proposed removal of the committee as a “retrograde step” that would have a negative impact on the safety of women and babies.
“The midwifery committee is the formal route for the midwifery voice to be heard within a nursing-dominated organisation – 95% of the [NMC] register are nurses.
“Without the voice of the midwifery committee, regulation for midwives will be largely determined by another profession,” she said in blog post in which she urged midwives to respond to the consultation.
“The removal of the midwifery committee, without a wider review of regulation and the setting up of a separate register, is a retrograde step, which will undermine the profession and impact on the safety of women and babies,” she added.
The NMC declined to comment on whether it would continue to take advice on regulation from a committee of midwives, even if it were not legally required to do so in the future.
The government consultation on the legislative reforms is open until 17 June, with changes expected to be made in early 2017.