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RCM branch review — moving forward together

24 June, 2008

RCM branch review — moving forward together

Last year there was an independent review, commissioned by the College, of our local branch structure and functions.Over the course of the year, members contributed through questionnaires, interviews and focus groups, as well as responding to consultations on the web and through the pages of this journal.


Last year there was an independent review, commissioned by the College, of our local branch structure and functions.Over the course of the year, members contributed through questionnaires, interviews and focus groups, as well as responding to consultations on the web and through the pages of this journal.   


Midwives magazine: February 2002


The problems faced by branches are wellknown to many of you — low attendance at meetings and declining participation in branch affairs. In terms of democratic decision-making in the College, communication between members and the promotion of professional development and support, our branches are our weakest link.


The review suggested three possible ways forward. First, to maintain the status quo, yet to invest in additional support for branches, including a move to a more rational configuration. Second, to conclude that branches no longer have a place in the RCM and to reinvest in direct support for members. And third, to begin to create new structures and mechanisms that provide for local support, but also networks that engage our members in a more effective way.


The RCM Council has now considered the final report of the review (a full copy of which is available on the RCM website at: www.rcm.org.uk). It has agreed that the most ambitious of these three options — that of modernising the RCM by readjusting the balance between local and central services, and leaving local members free to decide the longterm future of their branch — should be pursued. This option is grounded in a radical vision for the future, where every RCM member experiences directly the benefits of membership and is able to contribute to the advancement of the profession.


Vision for the future

How do you react to the long-term vision of an RCM where, for example, every member of the College is able to quickly and easily connect with the College, regardless of whether they are in trouble at work, looking for information on practice development, exploring options for professional development, or wanting to have their say about College policies, priorities and actions? A Freephone 0800 number will put them through immediately to an operator able to respond to their query or request, signpost them to their local steward or full-time officer, and provide standard information using written protocols, supplemented by either printed or web-based materials.


Alternatively, a member will log on to the College’s interactive website to notify the College of a change of address or other details, to participate in one of a host of professional chatrooms run by and for members, to vote for the President, or to comment on the College’s draft pay review evidence. Members would email colleagues with similar professional or research interests. Using a database of members’ interests, the College will host a number of virtual special interest groups, such as a black midwives forum, midwives working with vulnerable women, and midwives working in primary care structures


All members will have access to regular regional (England) and national (Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) professional development forums. These will provide a structured and accredited learning and sharing environment, covering specific practice or educational initiatives, identified locally as being of concern. They will bring together experts within and outside the profession, with the RCM leading lay members and staff.


Members unable to attend a particular forum will find full proceedings with email contacts on the regional page of the RCM website. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, coordination of the professional development forum will rest with the RCM Board, giving it a much clearer role in facilitating professional development, contributing to country policy development, representing members’ views to the College, and raising issues for debate at the annual conference. In England, each regional professional development forum will be coordinated by a steering committee, directly elected by members within the region to fulfil the same roles described above for Boards.


Every workplace of over 20 midwives will elect its own steward or stewards, who will be in direct and regular contact with the fulltime officer for support and advice, in addition to their training, briefings and newsletters. Regional or country stewards liaison meetings will be facilitated by the fulltime officer and supported administratively, but planned by stewards themselves according to identified development needs or local issues arising. These liaison meetings will provide an opportunity for mutual and shared learning, a route to raise concerns with the College, and a forum for identifying issues for discussion at the annual conference. Full-time officers will hold a budget and authorise stewards’ travel and other expenses, potentially including subsidised attendance at the annual conference.


The aim of this vision is that over time, the traditional roles of branches will be surpassed by these new structures and forms of support, and eventually many branches may decide either to close or to confine their activities to local fundraising to support the professional development of midwives.


Where branches disband, they might decide to transfer their funds to a professional development forum to increase its ability to support local midwifery initiatives, including research.


While this is a radical vision, it also represents a long-term plan for modernising the College — these changes will not happen overnight. A five-year period for such developments is the best guess for when we will be able to achieve this vision. The next stage is to test the ideas thoroughly and to submit them to robust scrutiny before piloting them.


As the work to develop the vision into firm recommendations continues, I will keep you informed of its progress. You can have your say about the proposals by raising the issue at your branch, by visiting the RCM website or by writing direct to me at RCM headquarters. 


Jon Skewes

is the RCM Director of Employment Relations and Development








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