How has midwifery changed; what will it look like in the future; and what’s the exact impact the media has, given the big part they play in how midwives are portrayed?
These were some of the opening questions put forward by RCM head of quality and standards Mandy Forrester as chair of the third question time at the RCM annual conference today (1 November).
‘What a pleasure it is to speak to real midwives!’ said Stephen McGann, star of Call the Midwife as he addressed a packed auditorium as the first speaker.
Stephen believes it’s not the medical accuracy that makes Call the Midwife such a huge hit (10.5 million viewers a week), nor the actors, but real midwives.
‘The key to the show’s success is not me, but you (midwives) and what you represent to people,’ he said.
He believes the warm public response to the TV series also reveals what people want from midwives and wider healthcare – a focus on compassion and human values.
‘The heart of what makes a good midwife and a good midwife drama is love expressed through the compassion of medical care,’ he said.
Other speakers included author of Midwife Diaries Ellie Durant, and male midwife Joshua Downey from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Ellie touched on the media portrayal of midwives and how views on the profession can be polarised.
While Joshua, one of ‘113 male midwives in the UK’ said he was interested in public perceptions of male midwives.
Joshua didn’t think about his gender when entering midwifery, simply that ‘I wanted to care,’ he said.
Finally, CEO of Mumsnet Justine Roberts revealed a recent survey of Mumsnet users on their experience of postnatal care.
While 75% stated they had a positive experience, Justine explained that for the minority who didn’t – it stayed with them.
That said, those women understood the strain that midwives are under, which is why ‘88% of those who had a bad experience didn’t report it,’ revealed Justine.
Impassioned questions from delegates followed, with an evident ‘energy in the room’ as Mandy described it.
The strong feeling about midwife shortages was clear, as was the need to get together with communicators to ensure midwives’ voices are heard, so that ultimately they are in a position to deliver the best care possible to women and families.
‘Together we can make changes and bring midwifery forward,’ finished Mandy.