Maternity Royal Colleges say safety “must be the driving force” in new vision

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) plan to put safety at the heart of a new joint vision for maternity services.

According to RCM’s website, the Colleges are aiming to make the UK the ‘safest and best place to give birth’, an initiative which would include the setting up of a national maternity improvement centre.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the RCM and Dr Edward Morris, President of the RCOG, proposed the ideas in a written response to the Health and Social Care Select Committee maternity safety inquiry, where both were due to give evidence.

Walton is quoted as saying: “Reports on failing and failed maternity services, like the Ockenden report published last week, have shown consistently, similar problems that led to damaged mothers, damaged babies and deaths. We have all got to work together to stop this happening and put safety right at the top of the agenda from where it must never move. 

“It must be the driving force behind every decision made in maternity services, from the midwives and maternity support workers at the front line through trust chief executives to the highest levels of government.”

Among other initiatives mentioned were uniting fragmented parts of the maternity care sector, while the proposed centre would reportedly organise staff training in areas such as improved fetal monitoring.

However, the Colleges also highlighted the need for investment, flexible funding and recruitment to help them achieve their safety and training goals.

“Safety also needs the right numbers of staff, in the right place, and whose skills are regularly updated with the right training. This means investing in staff and in services, which is investing in safety,” said Walton.

On the subject of the centre, Dr Morris added: “We believe introducing a centre dedicated to improving maternity safety will significantly improve the system in the UK. Reducing risk needs a holistic approach that both targets the specific challenges of fetal monitoring interpretation and strengthens organisational functioning, culture and behaviour – all of which will be key priorities for the centre.

“We reiterate our call for maternity services to be funded properly, giving staff the resources and support they need. Stretched and understaffed maternity services affect the quality and safety of care provided to mothers and babies and restricts the choices available to women.”

A recent RCM online study of around 1,400 staff members across the UK found that that safety of maternity was a significant area of concern for midwives. Of those surveyed, 83 per cent said they did not believe they had enough staff to operate a safe service and 42 percent reported that half of all shifts are understaffed.

Further information on the written response to the Health and Social Care Select Committee maternity safety inquiry, and the results from the survey, can be found on the RCM’s website.