Celebrating the midwife

In the first of a series of three blogs, the Chief Nursing Officer for England marks International Day of the Midwife:

On 5 May each year the role of the midwife and the midwifery profession are internationally recognised and celebrated for the significant contribution they make to maternal and child health.

International Day of the Midwife was launched in 1992 and was the brainchild of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).

Each year the ICM espouses a campaign theme. The theme of International Day of the Midwife this year is ‘Women and newborns: the heart of midwifery’; a theme that metaphorically highlights the significance of placing women and babies at the centre of midwifery care; the nucleus, the central and most important part; the corner stone that determines the position of the entire structure.

What an important, privileged and significant role the role of a midwife is.

Midwives around the world on 5 May are celebrated for their contribution to the pregnancy and childbirth experiences of women and their families, celebrated because midwives make a significant contribution to the quality and safety of maternity services and maternal and perinatal outcomes.

Every woman globally should have timely access to a midwife during the preconception, antenatal, labour and postnatal period, and a midwife who will be supported by good education to provide holistic evidence-based care that places the woman and her family at the centre of that care.

The publication of Better Births, the report of the National Maternity Review, (NHS England 2016), provides a platform for innovation and transformation for the provision of maternity services, an exciting opportunity for midwives in England.

The report clearly highlights the positive contribution of the midwife’s role in improving care for women and babies. Implementing the recommendations of the report in a combined way will improve the care provided by midwives and make a contribution to reducing perinatal mortality, not to mention a reduction in inequality of outcomes from maternity services and improved pregnancy and childbirth experiences for women and their families. How? Because the report calls for greater ‘Continuity of Carer’ and ‘Personalisation of Care’, against a backdrop of safety principles that enable the flexibility of responding to what women need and want.

I am reminded of the everyday achievements of midwives and their demonstrable passion to learn, measure and improve midwifery care. Midwives in England continue to be well placed to provide women and babies with safe, personalised, kind, professional and family friendly care where every woman has access to information to enable her to make decisions about care, and where she and her baby can access support that is centred around their individual needs and circumstances – an ambition of the Better Births report.

We cannot ignore the contributions that midwives make, working with obstetric and neonatal colleagues to reduce the stillbirth and neonatal mortality rate in England, a rate that fell by over 20% in ten years (2003 to 2013).

Equally, midwives have played a significant role in improving maternal mortality in the UK; reduced from 14 deaths per 100,000 maternities in 2003/05 to nine deaths per 100,000 maternities in 2011/13. We need to continue to work hard to further improve our perinatal mortality rate and midwives are well placed with colleagues from the multidisciplinary team to support the Government’s ambition to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and intrapartum brain injuries in babies by 2030.

I am mindful that every year globally, midwives provide skilled care to millions of women, babies and their families. In England they care for just under 700,000.

I would like to personally thank all midwives for working hard to ensure that women in England receive the best care and that the unique contribution YOU make to women and their families is demonstrably safe, personalised and evidence based.

What does International Day of the Midwife mean to you?

“For me it’s a day when I reflect on the work of midwives globally, providing midwifery care within the cultural context of how women live their everyday lives. I think of the privileged role of the midwife and the significance of relational care on pregnancy and birth. I think of the emotional highs and lows of the role and reflect fondly on our insatiable appetite and desire to provide good midwifery care.

The global variation in the quality of maternity and neonatal care and, for some, the absence of a qualified midwife, continues to be a concern for me. Every woman must have access to a midwife! It is days like International Day of the Midwife that remind me of global efforts to make this very basic requirement a reality. I am #proud to be a midwife.” – Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Head of Maternity at NHS England


Jane Cummings

Professor Jane Cummings is the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Executive Director at NHS England.

Jane specialised in emergency care and has held a wide variety of roles across the NHS including Director of Commissioning, Director of Nursing and Deputy Chief Executive.

In February 2004, she became the national lead for emergency care agreeing and implementing the 98% operational standard. She has also worked as the nursing advisor for emergency care. In January 2005, she was appointed as the National Implementation Director for ‘Choice’ and ‘Choose and Book’.

Jane moved to NHS North West in November 2007 where she held executive responsibility for the professional leadership of nursing, quality, performance as well as QIPP, commissioning and for a time Deputy Chief Executive Officer. In October 2011, she was appointed to the role of Chief Nurse for the North of England SHA Cluster.

She was appointed as Chief Nursing Officer for England in March 2012 and started full time in June 2012. Jane is the professional lead for all nurses and midwives in England (with the exception of public health) and published the ‘6Cs’ and ‘Compassion in Practice’ in December 2012, followed by publishing the ‘Leading Change, Adding Value’ framework in May 2016.

Jane has executive oversight of maternity, patient experience, learning disability and, in January 2016, became executive lead for Patient and Public Participation.

She was awarded Doctorates by Edge Hill University and by Bucks New University, and she is a visiting professor at Kingston University and St George’s University, London.

She is also Director and trustee for Macmillan Cancer Support and a clinical Ambassador for the Over the Wall Children’s Charity where she volunteers as a nurse providing care for children affected by serious illnesses.

Follow Jane on Twitter: @JaneMCummings.