Many Essence readers and MIDIRS subscribers will already be aware of the issues currently facing UK Independent Midwives (IMs) and the women and families who are currently seeking their care, or who may do so in the future.
In October 2013, an EU Directive will make Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) mandatory for all health care professionals in the UK. At the present time, no PII is available to IMs, which means that these midwives are personally liable for any negligence claim made against them. A brief history of the way in which IMs initially lost their insurance cover can be found at www.independentmidwives.org.uk but, despite ongoing efforts by Independent Midwives UK (IMUK) to source affordable and appropriate cover for IMs since this time, it has not yet been possible to do this.
Even while IMUK has been campaigning to ask the government to find a workable and affordable solution to this situation, legislation is being implemented that would make professional indemnity insurance compulsory for all health care professionals, including midwives. This would be brought about by making the holding of PII a requirement of midwifery and nursing registration. As IMUK note: ‘This legislation will therefore impose a condition on their practice which it will be impossible to fulfil. Independent midwives will no longer be able to register as midwives and they will be committing a criminal offence if they continue to offer care to pregnant and birthing mothers.’ (Independent Midwives UK 2013).
The Department of Health has recently launched a consultation on this issue that will run until 17th May and Essentially MIDIRS, MIDIRS Midwifery Digest and Essence are encouraging readers and subscribers to participate in this consultation and to share their views. Whether or not midwives and birth workers believe that they will be personally affected is perhaps secondary to the fact that imposing this legislation will severely limit women’s choices and almost certainly lead to an increase in the number of women birthing without professional assistance. Essentially MIDIRS Editor Sara Wickham commented that:
‘This issue is of huge importance to everybody involved in birth. We have covered it in the news pages of the April issue of Essentially MIDIRS and, although we have repeated the oft-cited line that this requirement would not affect NHS employed midwives, who are covered by their employer’s insurance, the reality is that imposing this legislation would have a detrimental effect on midwifery and birth generally, and the knock-on effects would impact upon all of us and, more importantly, on women and babies. What happens to a midwife who is in between jobs, or having a career break? Will she or he have to temporarily give up their registration? It only takes a few minutes to respond to the relevant section of the consultation document, but it is vital that as many people as possible do so.’
A great deal of conversation relating to this issue can be sourced on social media sites for those who are interested; for instance, while the consultation document suggests that alternative solutions may be available for independent midwives, significant numbers of midwives, women and birth workers have been using social media to explain why these are not a viable solution.
More information on the consultation can be found on the Department of Health website and on the
The online survey can be accessed from the Department of Health website.
Further information on the independent midwives’ situation and updates can be obtained by joining the following Facebook pages: Fighting for Independent Midwifery and Independent Midwives UK and on AIMS website.
Reference Independent Midwives UK (2013). Save independent midwifery campaign.