Northern Ireland is now the first UK nation where every single maternity unit has embraced a charter aimed at ensuring the wellbeing of staff.
By signing up to the Royal College of Midwives’ Caring For You Charter, organisations commit to five key principles.
“This is a significant step in improving the working lives of midwives”
These include promising a “compassionate and supportive workplace” and ensuring midwives have access to flexible working.
At present, more than half of maternity services across the UK have signed the charter but Northern Ireland is the first country to achieve 100% sign-up, said the college.
Launched in June last year, it said the document aimed to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of midwives, midwifery students and maternity support workers so they in turn can provide the best care for women and families.
The initiative was started alongside the publication of survey findings suggesting that half of midwives feared they could make a potentially harmful mistake because they were “exhausted” at work.
Under the charter, NHS trusts and health boards must pledge to work with the RCM to develop a health, safety and wellbeing action plan, focusing on issues important to staff and patients.
They must ensure midwives and maternity support workers have the choice of a variety of shift patterns and flexible working, promote the importance of taking proper breaks, and help staff to access occupational health and other support services.
Organisations must also commit to a “zero tolerance” policy on bullying, noted the college.
“I look forward to many more trusts and boards across the UK signing up”
Suzanne Tyler, director for services to members at the RCM, hailed the fact all units in Northern Ireland were on board as “a great achievement”.
“It is hugely encouraging to see so many heads of midwifery concerned about the wellbeing of staff, and committing time and resources to it,” she said.
“It shows not only a concern for staff but a commitment to the mothers, babies and families they care for,” she said. “I look forward to many more trusts and boards across the UK signing up.”
Breedagh Hughes, RCM director for Northern Ireland, said she was “immensely proud that Northern Ireland is leading the way”.
“Our maternity services and their staff should all be proud, as should our hardworking staff and workplace reps,” she said.
She added: “This is a significant step in improving the working lives of midwives and maternity support workers, and the care for mothers, babies and their families.”