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The Zepherina Veitch 2017 lecture

7 June, 2017

The Zepherina Veitch 2017 lecture

Improving maternal care is not just about women but ‘about the birth of humanity,’ said outgoing RCM president, Professor Lesley Page, as she delivered the RCM’s 19th Zepherina Veitch Memorial Lecture yesterday (6 June).

In the surroundings of the University of Oxford and to a packed audience, Lesley gave her lecture: Midwives and our future: how can midwives be leaders and agents of change for a better future?

Lesley spoke of both the considerable progress there has been in maternity care in the UK, and what still needs to change, here and around the world, spelling out the challenges midwives face. 

She touched on the benefits of midwife-led continuity of care, which included women being 24% less likely to experience pre-term birth and 16% less likely to lose their baby. 

Lesley also spoke of the medicalisation versus humanisation of birth, and how we should be aiming for the latter. She revealed the disadvantages of medicalised birth, including high intervention rates and its lack of evidence base. 

‘We need to move away from a focus on risk, pathology, fear-driven maternity and towards positive births,’ she said. 

Lesley went on to explain that the WHO report Midwives' Voices, Midwives' Realities helps to explain the partial success of midwifery development, and why it’s been hard to  progress further. This includes a lack of voice for midwives.

‘We [midwives] each have a part to play, but we need appropriate resources,’ said Lesley. She said respect for midwives was critical. 

‘It’s the best job in the world, despite the difficulties,’ she finished. 

Lesley received a lengthy standing ovation as she bid farewell to her role of RCM president, and handed over to RCM’s new president, Kathryn Gutteridge.

‘I am so thankful for the wonderful leadership and presence of our dear Professor Lesley Page over the past five years. She has been a true ambassador for our profession and will be a hard act to follow,’ said Kathryn. 

‘I will be truthful, authentic and compassionate [in my new role] as I believe Lesley to be,’ continued Kathryn. ‘Being a midwife is more than a job – it’s the air that I breathe.’

Kathryn is an established consultant midwife with a long history of clinical care in the NHS and has also worked in many diverse settings including neonatal services and community midwifery care. 
She has a reputation for representing women’s psychological and mental wellbeing during this vulnerable stage of their lives. 

The lecture ended with Kathryn presenting RCM fellowships to Áine Alam, Dr Tracey Cooper and Dr Jenny Hall.

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