How can midwives support our approach to ‘build back better and fairer’?

By Professor Jamie Waterall, Deputy Chief Nurse on 26 February 2021 Maternity Safety Maternity Services Wellbeing Of Women

Like many of you, I have found the past year to be one of my most challenging. Responding to relentless work pressures while balancing caring responsibilities of a young family and ageing parents, one of whom was diagnosed with cancer following the first lockdown, has been far from easy.

Future historians, when they examine and describe the huge loss, personal sacrifice and impact of this period on the lives of so many, will also recognise the bravery and leadership of our midwifery and nursing profession in the critical roles that we have all played during the pandemic. I am immensely proud of how our profession has stepped up to the pandemic response alongside the ‘day-to-day’ work.

This pandemic has further illustrated the need for our professions to reconsider our model and approach if we are to respond to the public health challenges of our 21st century population. There is clear evidence that health inequalities are widening, there are still too many people dying prematurely or living with preventable ill health. Mental health conditions are increasing, and the impact of the pandemic is likely to have added to this issue. We must take a life course approach, starting at preconception, which is why midwives play an important role in challenging the way that we address these issues.

To support midwives and maternity teams, Public Health England has worked in partnership with Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare (HEE e-LfH), to develop a range of bite-sized sessions within the All Our Health e-learning programme focused on different life stages and priority public health issues. There are a number of resources included on the platform, which will be of specific interest to the midwifery profession, including the ‘Best Start in Life’ session, which provides advice and ideas for midwives and maternity teams to implement into their daily practice when supporting expectant and new mothers. It also features a brief knowledge check and lots of useful links to further advice and guidance to support your practice. This learning can also be used to support your continues professional development and three yearly revalidation process. 

There are also three interactive townscapes hosted on our All Our Health platform which signpost professionals to trusted resources on smoking in pregnancy, breastfeeding and childhood obesity. These resources enable our professions to take a place-based view of the actions and interventions which need to be scaled if we are to make a difference in preventing illness, protecting health and promoting wellbeing of the public that we serve.

In addition, there is also a Healthy Pregnancy Pathway available via e-LfH which provides guidance for local commissioners and service providers on the delivery of prevention interventions to promote healthy pregnancies.

There is a critical need to ‘build back better and fairer’ as we enter the recovery stages of the pandemic and I believe that the All Our Health and e-LfH resources play an important role in supporting midwives and all health and care professionals access wider support and care for women and babies, which in turn will lead to better health outcomes for children, families and the communities that we take deep pride in caring for – during the pandemic and beyond.

All Our Health covers a range of public health issues including obesity, mental health, alcohol, screening and immunisations. They aim to improve health and care professionals’ knowledge, confidence and skills in preventing illness, protecting health and promoting wellbeing.

Professor Jamie Waterall

Deputy Chief Nurse

Chief Nurse, Maternity & Early Years Directorate – Public Health England