Following concerns raised about statutory supervision of midwives
and the subsequent report for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
by the King’s Fund (The King’s Fund, 2015), changes will be occurring
to the regulatory framework that underpins midwifery.
These include separating the regulatory and supervisory components of the current system,
with the NMC becoming solely responsible for regulation and that the legislation pertaining to the NMC should be revised to reflect this.
The King’s Fund review found that statutory midwifery supervision had an unclear relationship with the regulatory function of the NMC and with the proper role of the employer or service provider in effecting systems of sound clinical governance.
Its removal will mean employers and providers of midwifery services will have to ensure they have processes to measure and improve quality, offer choice and support women through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Under the proposals, the NMC will focus on using its regulatory functions (including revalidation from April 2016) to protect the public.
Employers and providers of midwifery services will be responsible for putting in place a professional model of midwifery supervision when statutory supervision is removed to meet the need for clinical supervision for midwives in clinical practice and peer review for practising midwives who are not in clinical practice.
It’s important to remember that these changes do not alter the status of midwifery as a distinct profession with its own standards. There will be no change to the protected title of midwife, and delivering a baby remains a protected function for a midwife or a medical practitioner.
The NMC will continue to ensure midwifery has a strong voice once the statutory requirement to have a midwifery committee is removed. The Government has also confirmed its intention to make some important changes to the NMC fitness to practise processes. These changes will allow for a more proportionate approach to cases, with new powers to resolve some less contentious matters more simply and quickly, taking only the most serious cases to a full hearing.
What happens next?
The Department carried out a consultation and received 1,424 responses on the proposed changes from individuals (mainly midwives and organisations). The feedback from the consultation can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/consultations. Parliament will now debate the changes in spring 2017 and if approved, they are set to come into force around April 2017. Until the law changes, what is required of midwives remains the same and this is set out in the Midwives Rules and Standards and the Code.
As part of this transition, NHS Professionals Chief Nurse/ Head of Governance will be working closely with Trust Leads and Heads of Midwifery to include all bank only Registered Midwives in local Trust supervision programmes.