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RCM leader urges midwives to challenge poor practice

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The maternity care failings detailed in the Kirkup report “could be happening elsewhere”, the leader of the Royal College of Midwives has warned.

The warning came from RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick in her speech to the union’s annual conference this morning.

“The terrible truth is right now everything Dr Bill Kirkup found could be happening elsewhere and will continue to happen unless midwives do something about it”

Cathy Warwick

The findings of the Kirkup report, which looked into the deaths of mothers and babies at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, were published in March.

Among the problems it identified, the report noted failings such as substandard clinical competence, poor working relationships between doctors and midwives, and a closed culture that discouraged the raising of concerns.

Professor Warwick said: “I have thought about its findings long and hard and realise… the terrible truth is right now everything Dr Bill Kirkup found could be happening elsewhere and will continue to happen unless we [midwives], not just others, do something about it.”

The Kirkup report had stated there was “no doubt” many trusts around the country would show one or two of the “defects” found at Morecambe Bay, but the “full set is very unlikely to be anything other than a rarity”.

RCM

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Cathy Warwick

Addressing around a 1,000 midwives and maternity support workers, Professor Warwick said: “To think that we as midwives along with other health professionals were part of the problems that led to the deaths of mothers and babies was almost impossible for me to comprehend.

“But as increasing stories of maternity system failings hit the press, while some of the problems rest with the systems we work in, we have to accept that we are working in those very services,” she said at the International Centre in Telford, Shropshire.

She called on midwives to be the ones who challenged and changed systems that may not be delivering the best care.

The RCM chief executive said some of the failures identified in the Kirkup report “will continue to happen unless we, not others, do something about it”.

“Let’s not be ostriches and bury our heads in the sand,” she said. “We can do better and… my plea to you is get active.”

Professor Warwick also challenged midwives to “step up to the plate” in generating change and making services better.

“Let’s not be ostriches and bury our heads in the sand. We can do better and… my plea to you is get active”

Cathy Warwick

She called on midwives to deliver more women centred services, asking “where were all” the homebirth services, the midwifery-led units and the continuity of carer schemes that evidence suggested provided better outcomes for women.

She added: “If we as midwives find our collective voice, support each other, share our good practice, put women rather than competing ideologies at the centre of what we do we can make a difference. It is you – the person at the frontline who can have an impact.”

Stressing the vital role that midwives play, Professor Warwick asked delegates to “stand up for high standards and start seeing the enemy not as an external threat but as our own apathy, negativity and failure to argue the case for midwifery and midwives linking directly to quality.

She added that midwifery needed a “strong and united profession… to implement care based on high quality, evidence, safety and on what we hear women want”.

Putting a spotlight on the innovative and forward thinking work being done by midwives and maternity support workers across the UK, Professor Warwick urged the profession to learn from each other and the best examples of care.

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