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RCM ‘concerned’ by Ombudsman report

12 December, 2013

RCM ‘concerned’ by Ombudsman report

The Health Service Ombudsman’s report on maternity services at Morecambe Bay released. Posted: 12 December 2013 by Clare Wilson

The Health Service Ombudsman’s report on maternity services at Morecambe Bay was released yesterday (11 December).


The report, Midwifery supervision and regulation: recommendations for change, follows the completion of three investigations into complaints from three families relating to local midwifery supervision and regulation.


In her foreword and summary of the report, the Health Service Ombudsman

Dame Julie Mellor said that, in all three cases, the local midwifery supervision and regulatory arrangements failed to identify poor midwifery practice at Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.


The report’s authors worked with the NMC to identify two key principles that form the basis of their proposals to change the system of midwifery regulation.


These are that midwifery supervision and regulation should be separated and that the NMC should be in direct control of regulatory activity.


In a statement, the NMC welcomed further independent scrutiny of the quality of midwifery at Morecambe Bay and the response of the system to failings.


NMC chief executive, Jackie Smith, said: ‘The government’s commitment to modernise our legal framework gives us an opportunity to make any changes needed to make maternity care safer for women and babies.


‘We will give full consideration to the Ombudsman’s recommendations. We are committed to ensuring the way we regulate midwifery services is effective and proportionate to the risks associated with midwifery as it is practised today.’


The RCM, however, has expressed concerns over the report.


Chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘We are concerned that the Ombudsman has highlighted “real weaknesses” in local statutory supervision of midwives that failed to identify poor midwifery practice. 


‘The RCM recognises the importance of keeping our regulatory framework under review, to ensure it fulfils its function of protecting the public, and is concerned that this was not the case regarding three specific complaints at Morecambe Bay.


‘The supervision of midwives plays a pivotal role in clinical governance by ensuring that standards of supervision and midwifery practice meet those required by the NMC.


‘Midwifery supervision is a statutory function, is highly-valued by the midwifery profession and has been the envy of other professional groups.


‘It is impartial, in that it does not represent the interests of any service provider. Its framework has undergone change since these complaints arose and the RCM understands that significant steps have already been taken to address some of the concerns expressed by the Ombudsman in its report.


‘In many maternity services, the supervision of midwives can and should make a significant contribution to the protection of women and their babies.


‘It is very important that the long-term consequences for high-quality maternity care of further changes are very carefully considered.’


The Health Service Ombudsman’s report is available online here.

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