All women in prison must have access to equivalent maternity care as women outside the prison system’ says RCM publishing new Position Statement on Perinatal Women in the Criminal Justice System
Following the recent death of a new-born baby, whose mother gave birth alone in a cell at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says ‘all women in prison must have access to equivalent maternity care’ to women outside the prison system.
The RCM’s call for equivalence of care, comes as the organisation launches a Position Statement on ‘Perinatal women in the criminal justice system’ which includes the following recommendations:
- A specific Prison Service Instruction should be developed for perinatal women, which covers every women’s prison in the UK, taking a First 1001 days approach.
- All UK women’s prisons should implement the Birth Companions’ Birth Charter in full and without delay.
- NHS Trusts and Boards local to women’s prisons should work in partnership to facilitate a specialist midwife to care for pregnant women.
- Continuity of midwifery care should be a default care pathway for women in prison because of its ability to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes for vulnerable women.
- All judges and magistrates should receive training on infant-maternal health and the importance of the First 1001 days of child development.
The new Position Statement makes additional recommendations with respect to sentencing, probation, suspended sentences, staffing, and the importance of Mother and Baby Units.
Commenting, Gill Walton chief executive and general secretary from the RCM said; “Maternal and new-born healthcare should not be compromised by imprisonment and we know some pregnant women have reported receiving inadequate healthcare during their pregnancy while in detention which can put the life of their unborn baby at risk too.
“The RCM believes all women in prison or custody must have equal maternity care to those women on the outside. What we need to see is women’s prisons working with their local NHS Trust’s and health- boards to facilitate specialist midwifery care for pregnant women.
“Women in prison are some of the most vulnerable in our society and that is why continuity of midwifery care is so important for women detained in in the criminal justice system because it has the ability to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes for vulnerable women.
“While the RCM thinks that diversion to specialist services or community sentencing should be prioritised for perinatal women wherever possible, it’s also crucial judges and magistrates fully understand the impact of any proposed sentence.
“That is why the RCM is recommending all judges and magistrates receive training on infant-maternal health and the importance of the First 1001 days of child development to enable them to fully understand the impact of any proposed sentence on a woman and her unborn child.”
Read full Position statement here – RCM on Perinatal women in the criminal justice system here https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/3640/perinatal-women-in-the-criminal-justice-system_7.pdf.
RCM responds to first 1000 Days of Life Report – January 2019
Birth Companions (2016). Birth Charter for women in prisons in
England and Wales. https://www.birthcompanions.org.uk/Birth-Charter
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.