New draft standards designed to enable future midwives to deliver the best and safest care at point of registration have been outlined by the NMC as part of a public consultation commencing February 2019.
One of the key themes of the proposals is that the woman is at the centre of care. Emphasis on continuity of care and carer for mothers, newborn infants and their families is also a priority.
Jacqui Williams, Senior Midwifery Education Advisor at the NMC, discusses her role, the importance of the draft standards and how midwives can become involved in the consultation.
Tell us a bit about your role at the NMC and your background
My background is predominantly in midwifery education but I have lots of clinical experience and update my clinical practice regularly. I have particular expertise in open and distance education. Before I joined the NMC, I practised abroad in Germany and the Middle East, and I currently volunteer teaching emergency skills and drills overseas.
I’m also finishing my doctoral research which explores the concept of resilience for student midwives.
I joined the NMC in April 2018 on secondment from the University of Nottingham where I was the Lead Midwife for Education and Director of Midwifery Undergraduate programmes.
I took up my substantive post at the NMC in the middle of October 2018, working in the Education and Standards Directorate to support the development of the new midwifery standards of proficiency and programme standards.
It’s a real privilege to be part of the team that’s delivering the future midwife project, and I also have a wider remit to advise on midwifery across the organisation. A big part of my job is ensuring that the voice of midwifery is heard across the NMC and considered in everything we do with registrants – whether they’re midwives, nurses or nursing associates.
Why do midwives need new standards?
We want to ensure that our education standards are fit for purpose and that nurses, midwives and nursing associates are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to deliver high quality and safe care now and in the future.
As part of this, we’re conducting a major review of our education standards, which inform how education institutions design and deliver their curricula. Mary Renfrew, Emeritus Professor at the University of Dundee, and others have led the review of programme standards and standards of proficiency for midwives and the development of the draft new standards we’re now consulting on.
At its heart, the NMC is about better and safer care for women, newborn infants and families, which is why we set standards and work with higher education institutions to ensure student midwives can practice safely and effectively when they qualify.
The current standards were published in 2009, but midwifery practice has changed dramatically since then. New care techniques and modern medicine continue to evolve the profession, and we need new standards that reflect changes in society, with women and babies’ physical, psychological and social needs often exceeding the requirements of the 2009 standards, so updating them is important to ensure all education institutions keep pace with the latest developments.
Importantly, the new standards will place the woman, baby, her partner and family at the centre of care in pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
Tell us a bit about the consultation. How can midwives get involved – will there be any events?
The consultation was launched on 12 February and will run for around 12 weeks – so far we’ve had a fantastic response with some events already sold out. But there’s still plenty of opportunities to get involved and we want to hear from everyone who wants to have a say.
We’ll be running a comprehensive programme of engagement across the four countries of the UK, as well as webinars and Twitter chats with all the details available on our website. We’ll also be presenting at a number of national conferences during the consultation. People can respond to the consultation both individually and collectively as a group or through their organisation.
What’s new about the draft standards, tell us what you propose is important?
Our new standards will enable the future midwife to deliver the best and safest care at the point of registration. The standards have been developed using the Lancet Framework for Quality maternal and newborn care and are based on research evidence. This framework incorporates universal care for all women as well as additional care for women who have more complex needs.
The key theme that runs through the whole future midwife project is that the woman is at the centre of care. This means women’s needs, wishes and preferences are paramount during midwifery care.
The new standards place significant emphasis on continuity of care and carer for mothers, newborn infants and their families, so that throughout the pregnancy and after the birth mothers receive care from the same group of health professionals. Students will also be given an increased focus on mental health care for women and families. Midwives will focus on identifying the individual health and mental health needs early on in the pregnancy and where necessary flag these with multidisciplinary teams.
Under the new proposals, education institutions and their practice learning partners will be given much greater freedom to be more creative in designing their curriculum and more innovative in the way they train midwives. They will be able to harness the latest technologies and use modern care techniques.
We want the new standards to equip the future midwife with the skills needed to deliver world class midwifery care, which is why the standards also focus on public health, collaborative working and leadership.
Once the new standards come in what will it mean for practising midwives. Will they now need to upskill themselves?
When finalised, these will be the standards that new student midwives need to meet in order to join our register.
We know midwives strive for the highest standards of professionalism. As in any profession, learning doesn’t stop at the point of qualification, and midwives will continue to learn new skills and train with new techniques throughout their careers, keeping pace with changes in midwifery care. As part of this, all midwives go through revalidation, which is the process that all registrants need to follow to maintain their registration with the NMC and it may be helpful for midwives to use the new standards as a benchmark for their revalidation.
Can you give us thoughts on the state of midwifery today in the UK?
I think it’s a really exciting time to be a midwife. Travelling across the country during our consultation it’s been a pleasure to hear so many big ideas for the future of midwifery and it’s also an interesting time for midwifery policy. We welcome the introduction of the new role of Chief Midwifery Officer as announced in the recent Ten Year Plan for the NHS in England. I look forward to hearing more about this role and how it will be used to drive the best outcomes for midwives, women and families.
It’s also great to see the four nation agendas driving continuity of carer schemes and emphasising the key role midwives play in coordinating the care of women and babies. It’s so important that the future midwife standards give new midwives the right skills and knowledge to care for women and babies with kindness and compassion.
I’m looking forward to continuing our engagement during the consultation and meeting with as many people as possible to discuss our draft new standards.
More information about the NMC public consultation and draft of new midwifery standards can be found here.
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