Independent midwifery under threat

Independent Midwives UK fears that despite the Francis Report’s unveiling of the flaws and shortcomings of the NHS as a whole, the government will allow independent midwifery, an important alternative healthcare choice in maternity care, to disappear.

Despite the issues throughout the NHS, recently highlighted by the Francis Report, the government is allowing an important alternative healthcare choice in maternity care to disappear – a healthcare choice they themselves describe as ‘the gold standard the NHS should strive for’.

On 25 October 2013 EU Directive 2011/24/EU will come into force, which requires that all self-employed healthcare providers have professional indemnity insurance (PII). Currently, there is no such insurance in the commercial market for independent midwives, meaning that independent midwives will be unable to continue working legally when this directive becomes law.

Independent midwives have been practising without PII since the 1990s, but as required by the Nurses and Midwives Council, with whom they are registered, they inform their clients that they practise without it and the implications of this. Therefore, women can make an informed choice.

As a result of the new legislation women will lose the choice to alternative maternity care from a fully qualified midwife. Midwives will lose the right to work outside of the NHS, and the NHS will have the monopoly on maternity care.

It is consistently recognised that one-to-one care in pregnancy and birth results in better birth outcomes for mother and baby. It is government policy that maternity care should be providing continuity of care to women throughout pregnancy and birth. Currently, independent midwives are the only midwives consistently able to provide this type of care, which leads to fewer unnecessary medical interventions in childbirth, higher rates of satisfaction for women and better long term health benefits for women and babies such as breastfeeding.

Repercussions of this directive will be that there may be midwives who choose to break the law, driving midwifery underground as it is in other countries.

Sally Randle, press spokesperson for IMUK, said: “In every other area of healthcare there is a private alternative. Why not midwifery? It is a backward step for women, babies and midwifery and they are being betrayed by a Prime Minister who promised he would not let independent midwifery be lost. At a time when there are midwife shortages potentially threatening safe midwifery care, and deep-seated problems emerging in the NHS, as revealed by the Francis report, why is the government not doing all it can to help independent midwifery to survive and flourish?”

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