The 13th April brought us “Celebrating Continuity, Rhetoric into Reality, Policy into Practice” a conference created through a collaboration between AIMS, RCM, The Positive Birth Movement, Neighbourhood Midwives and a Birmingham NHS Trust.
So many exciting themes came out of the conference, together with discussions of common concerns and their solutions. One quote from Beverley Turner underlined the whole of the day, “Women should be utterly supported throughout birth, and never just “winging it with a stranger”. I would equally say that midwives should be able to support women through birth having clearly understood their needs and wishes via a relationship built through pregnancy, and not left just “winging it with a stranger”.
An interesting comment from Baroness Julia Cumberledge, following a question by Ruth Weston of Aquabirths, addressed the frustration of so many campaigners that CCGs were unaccountable, even to Monitor. She announced that she was working in a team which was developing a new framework which, if accepted, would give the power to evaluate CCGs and influence their practice. This could be transformational for continuity campaigns where CCGs are refusing to implement what is safest, cheapest and gives the best outcomes for families.
There was an important reminder at this conference that maternity is not just about getting a baby out, but at it’s core, it’s building Healthy, Happy Families. It was noted by Professor Lesley Page of the RCM that within caseload models of care, we see a reduced level of child protection intervention. While child protection falls outside of the maternity tariff, and is therefore not considered as an outcome of good maternity care, it is likely that it means that continuity of carer under a caseloading model leads to better bonding between parents and their babies, and a stronger family into the future.
One fear raised by an audience member was that midwives would be on call for weeks on end, and that was unsustainable, and indeed this is a concern that worries many. The response given was that there are many necessary models of midwifery, and there is space for all needs, including shift work and midwifery teams. Indeed, it was pointed out that fragmented, busy labour wards where midwives can’t take a break is leading to midwifery burnout all over the country, not only with our qualified midwives, but the trainees, too, as shown in this heartwrenching Facebook post which went viral recently.
A combination of talks and workshops, this event was hugely informative and inspirational. Looking for positive ways to work on the implementation of continuity and caseloading, addressing the concerns and questions that came up, and reinforcing the message of support for each other. A fantastic day with fantastic people, the conversations are continuing and the changes will happen!
Report by Emma Ashworth