Editorial: Starting the big conversation

By Suzanne Tyler on 24 November 2017 Midwives Magazine RCM Annual Conference

We’re listening to you to build a successful future.

I’m writing this and reflecting on a fabulous two days at the new-style RCM annual conference. Last year, you said conference had become too expensive; we listened and by making attendance free we almost trebled the number who could attend. It was great to see so many ‘first-timers’. 

With more perspectives from outside the world of healthcare, more sessions from you, a bigger exhibition and learning zone and more posters, I hope we met all your learning and development needs. 

But the really important thing about conferences like this is the time out to reflect and rebuild, to refill our energy and enthusiasm, and to reconnect with the things that have brought us into the maternity world. The livestream of comments from delegates on the conference app convinced me we are getting this right.

We also wrestled, again, with maternity’s hoary old chestnuts: where does the role of the midwife end and that of the MSW begin? How much change and innovation can really be sustained in a climate of crippling austerity? And why does the NHS place so little value on our amazing midwifery leaders? 

These are not new debates and the fact that we continue to have them reflects their complexity; but there were many new insights and we hold firmly to the success stories. Perhaps the most inspiring words on these challenges came from actor, comedian, disability rights campaigner and all-round awesome woman Francesca Martinez, who said: ‘Don’t be defined by what you can’t do.’ 

Our new CEO, Gill Walton, used conference as the opportunity to launch ‘the big conversation’, which will be engaging members in how together we create a successful future for the RCM, for midwifery, for MSWs and for maternity services. By next year’s conference we’ll be reporting back on the vision that you have created for delivering the best and safest maternity service in the world. 

Gill also launched MSW month, our opportunity to celebrate and promote what she called ‘the jewel in the crown of maternity services’. I’m pictured above with MSW Cherylene Dougan from NHS Dumfries & Galloway. 

This type of inclusivity, respect and teamworking, characterised by our annual conference, makes us all stronger.