NHS first as chief midwife appointed to improve maternity care in the South West

The NHS has appointed the region’s first chief midwife to lead improvements in care for expectant mothers and their babies during the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

NHS England announced today that Helen Williams would be the first to take on the new role in the South West, making her responsible for midwifery leadership and the provision of safer and more personal care for women, babies and their families in this region.

Helen has worked in the NHS for 37 years starting her career as a registered nurse before qualifying as a midwife in 1989. Throughout her career, Helen has worked across all areas of maternity services in a variety of clinical and managerial roles at Trusts within the South West region.

Helen Williams, Regional Chief Midwife for the South West, said:

“I am proud and honoured to be appointed as the first regional Chief Midwife in the South West.

“I am very much looking forward to joining both the NHS England and NHS Improvement – South West regional team and the new team of Chief Midwives across the country.

“I will seek to provide senior midwifery leadership and support to our maternity teams and to promote safe and high-quality maternity services for the 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”.

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 South West.

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 the most, including those who are from BAME or disadvantaged backgrounds.

Helen 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.

Professor Jaqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to welcome Helen 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 was with great pleasure that I welcome Helen, who will take a lead role in making the South West 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.”

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 will be celebrated worldwide.