This has been a week where the papers have been full of the crisis in the maternity services, from the shortage of midwives, to David Cameron back-tracking on his pledges, to women being so traumatised by their first birth experience that they will not be having another baby, to women having never clapped eyes before on the midwife who accompanied them through labour and birth and through to the ‘postcode lottery’ surrounding caesarean section rates and other aspects of maternity care.
Cathy Warwick, the General Secretary of the RCM (Royal College of Midwives) gave a speech at conference this week which painted a hugely demoralising, depressing and, frankly, scary picture of the state of the maternity services. Her speech was sprinkled with phrases like ‘ cracking point’, ‘ safety could be compromised’, ‘so stretched it risks safety’ and ‘bewildered’. Well Ms Warwick, you hold the key, you are the union chief so stop prevaricating and issue a few ultimations as it’s quite obvious that the gently, gently approach is not going to halt the collapse of the maternity services.
I’m finding all this quite interesting, this most public of admissions regarding the safety of the maternity services. Midwives talk to each other, especially at conferences and exhibitions and we have just had our annual conference, and currently there are rumours circulating regarding a case where a Trust is busy sanctioning staff for putting updates on a social networking site. The midwives had questioned the safety of the care they were able to provide, now they are accused of bringing the Trust into disrepute. How is it that Ms Warwick is able to shout from the rooftop that the maternity services are ‘at breaking point’ but that practising midwives are currently under scrutiny for allowing acquaintances to share in their desperation and concerns?