An official framework for the maternity support worker role in England has been launched in a bid to provide clarity about the post and highlight how the career can be advanced.
Health Education England claimed new measures, outlined in the first ever comprehensive education and career framework, would help thousands of MSWs to provide better care and support to women and their babies.
“MSWs are a crucial part of the maternity workforce, underpinning and supporting the work of midwives”
The framework, launched today, offers information on the skills and competences deemed necessary to undertake the role and provides details on how MSWs can advance their career.
In addition, it highlights the opportunities available to existing MSWs and for those new to the role, which includes access to apprenticeship and pre-registration midwifery programmes from Level 3.
In the document, MSWs are defined as staff that “assist with caring for women, babies and their families throughout their maternity journey, working under supervision and within agreed guidelines and protocols when providing care to women and their families”.
To create the new measures, HEE has worked with a range of partners to develop the document, including NHS England, NHS Improvement, Skills for Health, the Royal College of Midwives, Nursing and Midwifery council, the Maternity Voices Partnership, NHS employers and Unison.
“For too long the training, education and role of MSWs has been inconsistent, haphazard, and different across the country and from trust to trust”
The framework is the culmination of 12 months’ work, noted HEE, which consulted with employers and MSWs in a series of stakeholder events held across the country.
It added that researchers at the University of West England revealed that qualifications held by those in support roles frequently exceeded those required for the post and found that skills were not always used properly or developed.
They spoke to a range of groups including midwives, service leads, healthcare commissioners, education providers and maternity support workers themselves to better understand their roles, aspirations and the challenges they face, HEE noted.
Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, chief nurse at HEE, said: “We recognise the vital contribution maternity support workers make to the delivery of safe and personalised care for women and their babies.
“However, there is wide variation across the country in their education and training and how they are deployed so it is important that the same model of care is used in all areas,” she said. “The framework will help address this by having a national competency framework for the role.”
She also highlighted the Better Births’ Five Year Forward View of Maternity Services, which set a vision for modern maternity services and the delivery of safer and more personalised care.
The national plan, published in 2016, followed the investigation into the serious failings in maternity care at Morecambe Bay.
As part of this drive, Professor Bayliss-Pratt said it was HEE’s role to make sure that MSWs have the “right knowledge, skills, education and training to achieve this vision”.
Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary of the RCM, welcomed the document which the college said it had been “lobying for a number of years”.
“It is good news for maternity support workers and good news for midwives,” she said. “MSWs are a crucial part of the maternity workforce, underpinning and supporting the work of midwives and vital to success of transforming maternity services.”
Ms Walton said: “For too long the training, education and role of MSWs has been inconsistent, haphazard, and different across the country and from trust to trust.
“This brings clarity about their role and defines what their training and education should be and the things that they can do in their day to day work. It also offers clear career progression,” she added.
“MSWs will I am sure be glad of the focus on their role and the certainty it brings,” she said.