Build women’s healthcare strategy around their needs says RCM
Women’s voices should be at the centre of their care says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) responding to a Government consultation on a Women’s Health Strategy for England.
In a detailed and wide-ranging response covering issues including mental health, the pandemic and education around women’s health, the RCM notes that even within maternity services, where over 99 per cent of midwives are female, women still felt that their voices were not being heard.
The RCM also said that the voices of women from seldom heard groups and communities such as those from minority ethnic backgrounds and women with disabilities must be listened to more closely. Women have been actively involved in the RCM’s response through its Maternity Voices Network. The consultation closed just before midnight yesterday.
Birte Harlev-Lam, Executive Director for Professional Leadership at the RCM, said: “This is a significant point in the history of women’s healthcare in this country. If done properly with the right services in the right places, it could radically improve the health of women and the quality of care they receive. The sad fact is that too often women feel that their voices and their needs have been ignored in a system historically designed, built, and operated by men. In a society where women make up at least half of the population, this is a scandal. I really hope the changes that must come out of this consultation will change that forever and for the better.”
The RCM says that there should be additional development and funding for Maternity Voice Partnerships (MVPs) to incentivise organisations to listen and involve women. The dearth of research involving women is also highlighted and gaps in this area need to be plugged. The fact that minority ethnic women are more likely to experience baby loss and maternal death illustrates the pressing need for more research based around women, and specific groups of women says the RCM.
The RCM also sees a broader remit for midwives in supporting better women’s health such as supporting preconception care and sexual health, in line with the role of many midwives globally. However, midwife numbers would need to be increased significantly to enable this development to take place, stresses the RCM. There is also space to develop a women’s healthcare practitioner role to advise and care for women throughout their lives, from puberty to the menopause.
Birte Harlev-Lam added, “There is a lot in our response and some of it is quite radical, but we need fresh thinking, new ideas and a better way of delivering healthcare for women, that looks at the whole woman and is built around her. The Government are bold in their statements about this consultation. We now need to see them be bold about really listening to women and delivering the kind of care they are asking for, need and deserve.”
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
Notes to editors
The RCM’s full response can be read at https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/5069/rcm-womens-health-strategy-response.pdf.
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.