By Jo Tanner, Director of Communications & Engagement on 02 August 2021 Maternity Services Maternity Leave Maternity Discrimination

Midwives, MSWs, health professionals and scientists deserve our support and respect for all they continue to do during this pandemic. The RCM’s Director of Communications & Engagement, Jo Tanner, sets out why we are standing up to the hate-mongers and inciters of violence.

I’m really proud of the fact that we were one of the first Royal Colleges to share information for our members about COVID, all the way back in February 2020. Since then, we have brought together the most up-to-date information for midwives, MSWs and the women and families in their care, from clinical guidance to posters for display in maternity units. We’ve worked with the media to amplify this advice, and done the same on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It’s been a brilliant team effort, not just within the RCM but also through our partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and others. But this isn’t a self-congratulatory blog.

Why? Because following a round of interviews last Friday to support NHS England’s recommendation that all pregnant women come forward for their COVID vaccinations, Gill Walton, the RCM’s Chief Executive and General Secretary, was subjected to horrific online abuse. She was compared to Myra Hindley, accused of causing harm to women and babies, and much, much worse.

On Saturday, we took a stand against the trolls and the abuse, because we will not be cowed or bullied into staying silent. We called out the abusers, the keyboard warriors who hide behind the anonymity of social media. With the hashtag #IStandWithGill, we asked fellow health organisations, trade unions and health and care professionals to stand with us. And, in their hundreds, they did, and continue to add their voices to ours.

Because this isn’t just about Gill. This is about the idiots who think it’s OK to stand outside hospitals and shout at NHS staff about the ‘plandemic’. This is about the louts who think it’s OK to accost Prof Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, in the street. This is about the thousands of people in Trafalgar Square cheering when someone refers to the Nuremberg Trials and what happened to doctors and nurses.

And this is also about you. About every time you ask a visitor to wear a mask and get a mouthful of abuse, or worse.

Last year, a survey of RCM members found that seven out of 10 had experienced abuse or aggression either from those in their care, their partners or visitors. You are doing an incredible job, in the most difficult circumstances, and you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. More than that, you have the right to feel safe in the workplace. If you do not, you must raise it with your Head or Director of Midwifery, and also with your RCM rep. Let us support you.

We stand for respect. We stand for dignity. We stand for being able to do our jobs to keep women and their babies safe and healthy. #IStandWithGill.