We wear red – and here’s why

By Gill Walton, RCM Chief Executive on 23 January 2020 Midwifery World Health Organisation Leadership MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Scottish Government Welsh Government Government

This year, there’s going to be a lot of red in my wardrobe – because red is the symbol we are using for World Health Organization-designated International Year of the Midwife. The reason is simple: we want red to be a symbol, a rallying cry, for everyone to get behind the campaign to ensure that all women, here in the UK and across the world, to be able to access a well-educated and well trained midwife.

The International Year of the Midwife is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the work of midwives at home and across the world and raise our profile. The midwife is the intervention that makes the difference to women and families. The difference in some countries between life and death and for all an enhanced experience of maternity care.

While it’s important to celebrate, we must also use the platform this special year gives us to influence the national and international healthcare agendas. That is why the Royal College of Midwives has three key objectives for the Year of the Midwife:

  • Empower midwives and women by strengthening leadership at every level of maternity care;
  • Support better outcomes for women and babies through increased funding for maternity services; and
  • Invest in midwives through high quality continuous education and training.

All of these objectives lead to a single aim: for every pregnant woman to feel safe and secure throughout their pregnancy, birth and journey to parenthood supported by qualified midwives.

Leadership sits at the heart of this. Last year, the RCM launched a leadership manifesto and a leadership programme, with the aim to promote and embed leadership across the maternity team. This year we will continue to grow and roll out the programme, with more events and modules planned for our members at every stage of their career, whether midwife or MSW.

Every pregnant woman should have access to good maternity services, staffed by qualified midwives and supported by well trained MSWs. Currently, though, too many trusts and health boards are running with midwife vacancies, putting pregnant women and their babies at risk. We will be working with the new UK Government, the national governments in Scotland and Wales and, importantly, the newly-restored Northern Ireland Assembly to secure the funding needed.

Of course, funding is only part of the solution. We must invest in the maternity workforce too, supporting and providing ongoing, high quality training and education. Yes, that means bringing more midwives into the system, through training, but it is also about valuing those who are already practising. Part of that is about pay, but it is also about ensuring that midwives and MSWs have the opportunity to develop their careers.

There is little doubt that an investment in maternity services is an investment in the wellbeing of women. And when governments invest in women – be it through healthcare, education or support for entrepreneurship – there is a net benefit to society. What better aim for the International Year of the Midwife than to be part of the drive to build a better world.