NW London apprenticeship project insight from Richard Griffin and June Mensah

By Richard Griffin, HEE North London and June Mensah, midwife seconded to HEE on 26 February 2019

The six maternity units in North West London (NW London) employ just under 300 MSWs. Last year, the Local Maternity System (LMS), working with Health Education England, organised focus groups with maternity support workers (MSWs). We found a familiar story; while there were plenty of examples of good practice, deployment of the role was uneven, titles and career progression opportunities varied and there was no single and transferrable approach to education and development.

Being an early adopter of Better Births, along with the introduction of apprenticeship standards, created the opportunity to address these issues. We bought MSWs and midwives, particularly Practice Educators, from each of the Trusts together, compared current job descriptions, looked at good practice elsewhere and used the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Roles and Responsibilities Guide to develop a single NW London-wide band 3 job description.

Throughout we have worked closely with and involved the RCM. The LMS-wide discussion and RCMs involvement has meant we have been able to come up with a standard role that is the best for MSWs, supports midwives and most importantly enhances care for women and their babies.

A common approach to training is a key element of the project and the maternity pathway of the Senior Healthcare Apprenticeship standard (level 3) is being delivered to a cohort of MSWs drawn from each trust and learning together. This includes core competencies such as People Centred Care (which will include continuity) and specialist skills such as breastfeeding support, recognising deterioration and public health, along with functional skills. We are also considering how, for those who wish too, the apprenticeship can bridge into the maternity degree apprenticeship. The programme is being co-delivered by an education provider and the trusts themselves. A common Skills Passport has been designed and all support roles will be called “maternity support workers” in the future.

Next steps are to consider band 2 roles, theatres and band 4, with an expectation that the higher level roles will support more vulnerable women.

“MSWs play a vital role supporting midwives to deliver safe and effective care. Working as a LMS and with the RCM has given us an opportunity to think of the role more widely and how it’s contribution can be enhanced and better valued. The apprenticeship standards have presented an opportunity to create a single career ladder from entry level into registration and ensure all MSW have a robust training programme. This also gives us an opportunity to engage more with local young people, career changers and others to help grow our own workforce” said Pippa Nightingale Chief Nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and LMS Workforce lead.