Country news: Northern Ireland
News and updates from RCM Northern Ireland by director Breedagh Hughes (Midwives Spring 2018)
It’s a year since we last had a functioning government in Northern Ireland (NI). However, maternity services continue to be provided as midwives, MSWs and our colleagues cope with a lack of policy and political direction, pay rates falling ever further behind those in Great Britain, and ongoing workforce shortages – and that’s even before we factor in the uncertainty around the impact of Brexit.
It is not all doom and gloom, as midwives throughout Ireland are celebrating the centenary of the Midwives Act (Ireland) of 1918 – an all-island piece of legislation that pre-dates partition and still underpins midwifery practice in both the north and the south.
The celebrations were launched by the NI chief nursing officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, in Parliament Buildings. In the absence of a minister, we were joined by Richard Pengelly, the permanent secretary at the Department of Health, and by Dawn Johnston, director of midwifery at the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.
Midwives from across NI and a number of senior nursing colleagues also attended the first of a series of celebratory events to mark this momentous year. Volunteers highlighted the ongoing midwifery staffing shortage by bringing a pram full of 50 knitted midwives to the event (pictured below).
The next few months will see us holding celebratory events in each trust area, hosted by local councils – please contact your local branch reps for details of the one in your area. There will also be an ecumenical service of celebration in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on 8 June and in St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry/Londonderry on 21 June, where midwives past and present are welcome to join us. We will be rounding off the year with a gala dinner in Belfast City Hall on 30 November.
Other news to celebrate includes the award of an MBE to Verena Wallace, midwifery advisor at the Department of Health, for her contribution to midwifery services.
A new joint agreement between the RCM and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) was launched at the Irish embassy in London. It will enable INMO midwife members to access the RCM’s learning resources and events.