There’s been a lot going on in the midwifery scene in the UK.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is the regulatory body that registers midwives. All midwives in the UK, whether private, independent, or NHS, must be “on the register” in order to practice as and call themselves a midwife.
In January 2017, the NMC suddenly and immediately withdrew the ability of independent midwives, who I am apprenticing with, to attend births. They could continue to provide antenatal and postnatal care (“postnatal” commencing the moment the placenta is birthed) but as soon as someone was “in labour,” an independent midwife could not be anywhere near or provide even verbal support. Independent midwives could not even plan to transfer their clients to hospital care and accompany them as doulas. All this was over a baseless complaint (made by a private midwifery company, a “business competitor”) about the suitability of the indemnity insurance carried by all independent midwives. This insurance was designed especially for independent midwives in the wake of a 2014 EU law requiring midwives to be insured; prior to this, IMs did not carry insurance. That decision had also threatened the future of independent midwifery without any precedent of catastrophic claims or dangerous practice, so here we are again in territory that is familiar to independent midwives worldwide.
As you can imagine, this was a crushing and dangerous acute development for all of my midwives’ clients and for at least 80 other independent midwives and hundreds of families, with knock-on effects for affected NHS hospital trusts and then all the midwives employed there, as the NMC’s backtracking clarifications of what a “midwife” could and could not legally do began to also restrict NHS midwives (technically unable to attend their families’, friends’ and co-workers’ births, for example.) The UK is in the middle of a critical midwife shortage proven to be causing poor outcomes as it is; losing even one safely-practicing midwife now is a step backward and leaves mothers and babies at risk rather than “protecting the public” as the NMC claims.
Some local NHS trusts have graciously lent a hand to the Independent Midwives working in their areas to offer contract arrangements that would insure the IMs while allowing them to fully support their own clients as IMs out of hospital; we are lucky that Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has picked up the Yorkshire Storks, for example. The majority of Trusts have not provided any support, and this is by no means an ideal, permanent, or sustainable solution. Independent Midwives are still in the middle of a huge crisis; but there is light!
A few Independent Midwives hoisted up their trousers and brought a case against the NMC, which was recently granted a full trial! But this is expensive!
There is a GoFundMe to help pay for the costs associated with what is likely to be a long judicial process, which was halfway funded within a month!
As a birth photographer, I love when the first weight is done as a ceremony with the family looking on as a care provider weighs the baby with a hanging scale. As a needleworker, I especially love when the scale is aesthetically pleasing!
That’s why I decided to do my part to support the midwives who have supported me for the past two years by making weighing slings to fundraise for the IM/NMC trial. As I will be leaving the UK very soon I will not be here to celebrate with the IMs when they are restored to justice and full independent practice, but I will be thinking of them with every stitch! Each sling is $50/£35 which is a bargain! I have test washed my prototypes and so far, so good.