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Country news: Northern Ireland

Midwives magazine: Issue 6 :: 2012

Maternity strategy
The eagerly-awaited six-year maternity strategy for Northern Ireland (NI) has been launched by health minister Edwin Poots. The Public Health Agency (PHA) is responsible for its delivery.

The PHA is now recruiting a project manager to discuss with trusts and other stakeholders how to ensure the effective implementation of this wide-ranging strategy. There is a major focus on improving public health and reducing inequalities, an emphasis on the need for collaboration and teamworking, and a commitment to further developing midwifery-led care in NI. This includes the establishment of additional community midwifery units (CMUs), where appropriate.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust board has confirmed that a CMU will be developed on the Mater Hospital site in early 2013. The RCM will work with the trust to ensure a seamless transition from obstetric-led to midwife-led services. The trust’s decision was welcomed by Mr Poots when he officially opened the joint RCM/INMO conference in Armagh on 18 October. He also praised midwives for their role in normalising birth, promoting breastfeeding and collaborating in innovative projects, such as the Family Nurse Partnership.

Guideline delay
The ongoing delay in publishing termination of pregnancy guidelines for NI was brought into focus when Marie Stopes opened its first NI sexual and reproductive health clinic on 18 October.

The opening of the clinic, which will carry out abortions permitted within the legal framework in NI, has led to renewed calls to the DHSSPS to publish guidelines for healthcare staff. They will not only provide a clear exposition of the law, but also guidance for good practice, including recommendations for employers whose staff have a moral or religious objection to participating in abortion. These staff currently have no statutory right to conscientious objection in NI.

The Family Planning Association has been granted leave for a judicial review in January, which will call on the DHSSPS to account for the failure to publish the guidelines.

March against cuts
Along with colleagues across the UK, the RCM joined the March Against Austerity in Belfast on 20 October. We will continue striving to ensure health service cuts do not adversely affect our members and the women they care for.

Breedagh Hughes
RCM Northern Ireland