Championing safety

By Julie Griffiths on 23 November 2018 Midwives Magazine Maternity Safety Champions

What you need to know about maternity safety champions.

In 2015, the secretary of state for health announced a national ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2030; a timeframe subsequently revised to 2025. In 2016, Safer maternity care: next steps towards the national maternity ambition developed the maternity safety movement further, including a strong focus on leadership. As part of this, maternity clinical networks were asked to develop maternity safety champions.

So what is a maternity safety champion?

In England, every maternity provider is expected to nominate three individuals – two on the front line, an obstetrician and a midwife, who are jointly responsible for championing maternity safety locally, and a board member. The champions on the front line have links with the board, the local maternity clinical network and the maternal and neonatal health safety collaborative in their region.  

NHS Improvement says: ‘Maternity safety champions at every level – trust, regional and national – working across regional, organisational and service boundaries to develop strong partnerships, can promote the professional cultures needed to deliver better care. They play a central role in ensuring that mothers and babies continue to receive the safest care possible by adopting best practice.’

What does the midwife maternity safety champion role actually involve?

The midwife maternity safety champion builds the maternity safety movement in the service, working with the maternity clinical network safety champion and continuing the momentum generated by the maternity transformation programme (MTP) and the national ambition. They should provide leadership in safety and act as a change agent among health professionals and the wider maternity teamworking to deliver safe, personalised maternity care. As champion, they should share learning and best practice from national and international research and local investigations or initiatives.  

And the board member?

He or she must ensure that midwives and support staff receive all the training and resources they need. And they have a responsibility to ensure that safety is a priority item at board meetings, with the board taking action where needed as well as regularly monitoring quality and safety outcomes. The board-level maternity safety champion – who could be a non-executive director – will act as a conduit between the board and the obstetric and midwifery champions. They will be local quality improvement adviser, coach and conduit for sharing learning from national and international research and from local investigations or initiatives. The role includes fostering relationships between maternity clinical networks and neonatal operational delivery networks.

Do all maternity safety champions work in the same way?

The regulator NHS Improvement published a guide (see here) to help support maternity safety champions at all levels – trust, regional and national – to carry out their role. It stated that the guide would ‘enable, support and empower’ champions while the role was embedded. But it has also noted that champions and trusts were also likely to want to ‘develop and grow’ the roles themselves.