Celebrating International Day of the Midwife

Saturday 5 May 2018 marks international day of the midwife and Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Head of Maternity, Children and Young People at NHS England and National Maternity Safety Champion for the Department of Health and Social Care reflects on the importance of midwifery and how midwives are leading the way with quality care for women and their families.

Every year on the fifth of May we celebrate International Day of the Midwife. As a midwife, I know all too well the unique benefits of the relationship that most women have with their midwife. A relationship of trust, mutual respect; a relationship that empowers and helps keep women and their babies safe. On Saturday 5 May we celebrate this vital role. Every midwife in England and around the world can feel proud that they help women and their families through what is for most, one of the greatest and most important moments in their lives.

At this significant time of celebration, I am also reminded of the very sad times of baby loss that causes indescribable pain for families and immense sadness for the midwife. At these times midwives share emotional empathy and for some, they concurrently support another family and share the joy of new life, which demonstrates an incredible aptitude.

This year’s theme is midwives leading the way with quality care and I can think of no better theme that reinforces one of the best ways of providing quality care to women and babies than continuity of carer. Providing care in this way is ‘personal’ and ‘safe’ and maternity providers are working hard to implement this in England.

It is so important for women that they know and are comfortable with their midwife. Building a relationship which grows and deepens over time, enables trust to develop and women begin to share their deeper anxieties and insecurities, as well as enjoying the more positive aspects of growing knowledge and confidence through a supported journey of discovery.

Midwives benefit from continuity too. For a midwife, getting to know the woman, and developing a trusting relationship with her during her pregnancy, birth and postnatally is at the very least a rewarding and fulfilling experience. This way of working also maintains and strengthens clinical expertise across all areas of maternity care.

Naturally I believe that the midwife has a fantastic and privileged job that is not always understood. The midwife’s role extends beyond supporting a woman to birth her baby, and involves, but is not exclusive to: advocacy, health promotion, screening, infant feeding, bereavement support, education, research, leadership and management. Midwives are setting the pace for improvement and our Better Births Early Adopters and Choice and Personalisation Pioneers are testament to this.

Over the last 12 months we have collectively achieved so much and come a long way to provide safe, compassionate care for mothers and their babies.

In April 2017 we launched a new non-statutory model of midwifery supervision, A-EQUIP, an acronym for Advocating for Education and Quality Improvement, the first in history, placing emphasis on midwifery providers being able to tailor the model to their trust and midwives to improve outcomes for mothers, babies and their families.

As part of the plans to transition from a statutory model of supervision, to an employer led professional model, Supervisors of midwives were replaced with Professional Midwifery Advocates (PMAs). To date, over 800 PMAs have been trained across England and all maternity providers across the country have A-EQUIP implementation underway in the workplace.

I am absolutely delighted with how midwives have embraced the model and continue to use it to support their staff and improve experiences which will undoubtedly have an impact on improved outcomes. A-EQUIP adopts the principles of Leading Change, Adding Value, a national framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff, enabling all midwives, whatever their role, wherever they work to identify and reduce unwarranted variation.

We have also worked hard to ensure that by working with Higher Education Institutions, Health Education England and e-learning for Healthcare, we are ensuring that midwives continue to receive ongoing education about A-EQUIP. I am pleased to confirm that last week, we launched our second e-learning module for A-EQUIP. If you haven’t seen or completed the module yet, please do.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all midwives and maternity support workers for their continued hard work, commitment and dedication and I look forward to working with you all to improve outcomes for women, babies and their families.

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent

Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent has vast experience in healthcare provision and is the first Chief Midwifery Officer in England.

She has worked as a midwife and a nurse and held senior positions in clinical practice, education, leadership and management including: Director of Midwifery and Nursing positions for Women’s and Children’s services at Imperial College Healthcare Trust & Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Academic roles have included: Senior Lecturer, Curriculum Leader, LME and Professor of Midwifery.

Jacqueline was appointed Chief Midwifery Officer in Spring 2019 at NHS England and NHS Improvement and is National Maternity Safety Champion for the Department of Health. She is also visiting Professor of Midwifery at Kings College London and London South Bank University.

Her experience has seen her leading and influencing national maternity standards and guidance. She also influences healthcare, nationally and internationally through research, education and publications and is frequently invited to speak at national and international conferences. She is a member of the British Journal of Midwifery editorial board and until recently was an active member of the Maternity and Newborn Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine.

She has joined the Tommy’s Charity National Advisory Board as Midwifery advisor, and the Women of the Year management committee. Her voluntary work currently includes Midwifery Advisor for the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and until recently a trustee.

In 2014 she received the HSJ, BME Pioneers award and in 2015 she was selected from over 100 nominations for inclusion on Nursing Times’ Leaders 2015 list that celebrates nurses and midwives who are pioneers, entrepreneurs and inspirational role models in their profession.

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