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The NHS has appointed the North East and Yorkshire region’s first Chief Midwife to lead improvements in care for expectant mothers and their babies. Dr Tracey Cooper MBE will be the first to take on the new role in North East and Yorkshire, making her responsible for midwifery leadership and the provision of safer and more personal care for women, babies and their families in this region.
Tracey has 30 years’ midwifery experience, working in all areas of midwifery and birth settings, and has held midwifery management and consultant midwife roles. She is Associate Chief Nurse (Midwifery) at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WHH), leading the Women’s and Children’s Clinical Business Unit (CBU) for Nursing and Midwifery. Women’s and Children’s services at WHH have moved from strength to strength and have become a regional unit of exemplar practice through Tracey’s leadership, with the support of the CBU and Executive Teams.
She has developed care in all settings in collaboration with obstetricians to ensure women and their families are at the centre of decision-making. She has also developed many midwifery-led birth settings and different models of care throughout her career. She contributes to guidance and professional policy locally and nationally.
Tracey gained her PhD in 2011 at the University of Central Lancashire, looking at women and midwives’ perceptions of the role of midwife. She became a Fellow of the Royal College of Midwives in 2017 and was awarded an MBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list for her contribution to midwifery. In the same year she received an Outstanding Contribution Award for Midwifery and Maternity Services from the Midwifery Forum.
The Regional Chief Midwife will lead on maternity transformation by implementing the recommendations of Better Births, the report of the national maternity review, and the implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan in the North East and Yorkshire. This includes making care more personal by ensuring that by 2021 most women are cared for by the same midwife before, during and after birth. More personal care means safer care – helping to reduce pre-term births as well as women’s overall experience of care. Continuity of carer will be prioritised for those women and unborn children who would benefit from it most, including those who are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) or disadvantaged backgrounds.
Tracey will also support England’s first Chief Midwifery Officer, Professor Jaqueline Dunkley-Bent, in her work leading the development of maternity care to ensure England continues to be one of the safest places in the world to be pregnant, give birth and receive postnatal care.
Commenting on her appointment, Tracey said she was proud and honoured to be appointed the first Regional Chief Midwife for the North East and Yorkshire.
“I am very much looking forward to joining both the NHS North East and Yorkshire regional team and the new team of Chief Midwives across the country,” she said. “I will seek to provide senior midwifery leadership and support to our maternity teams and promote safe and high-quality maternity services for current and future generations of women and their families. I will bring my own set of personal and professional values to the regional team and together we can continue to improve and develop safe, high quality and sustainable maternity care.”
Professor Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome Tracey in her new role at what is a pivotal time for maternity care, as we look to make every mum’s experience of giving birth more personal. During the Year of the Nurse and Midwife we will be celebrating the extraordinary contribution that midwives make to new mums, babies and their families, so this is a significant time to make this important announcement.”
Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “It is with great pleasure that I welcome Tracey, who will take a lead role in making the North East and Yorkshire and the whole of England the safest place in the world to have a baby. Nurses and midwives play a vital role in delivering care to patients, and for more than 70 years have been the backbone of the NHS.”
Margaret Kitching, Regional Chief Nurse, said: “I am very pleased that Tracey is joining the North East and Yorkshire team to take up the Regional Chief Midwifery Officer role. The team are looking forward to working with Tracey on this significant transformational programme and quality improvement initiatives.”
The NHS is leading celebrations for the international Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, and a year when nurses and midwives are being celebrated worldwide.