UK’s Independent Midwives Face Extinction

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 24, 2017   

Dr. Joseph Shaw: "This absolutely baffling decision needs to be exposed to publicity"

BRISTOL, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Midwives, who work independently of the U.K.'s government health system, are being regulated out of existence amid ambiguous and contradictory assertions by the government.

Self-employed midwives who are members of the organization Independent Midwives UK (IMUK) were abruptly informed last month by the government's regulatory arm, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), that they were uninsured and had to cease working immediately.

When the midwives tried to get details of the so-called investigation, the actuary used by the government to investigate IMUK's malpractice insurance coverage admitted, "I was not able to review in detail simply because such models are highly complex, and it would take a significant amount of time to review in detail."


Dr. Joseph Shaw, professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, told Church Militant, "These midwives' practice has, as of January 11, been made illegal by the arbitrary decision of the state regulator, who insists that their insurance cover is 'inadequate' without revealing their reasoning or explaining what would satisfy them. This absolutely baffling decision needs to be exposed to publicity."

This absolutely baffling decision needs to be exposed to publicity.

Being "blessed to have seven children," Shaw says, "would not have been possible" had he not utilized the professional, personal, qualified and experienced care from the midwives, who were independent of the National Health Service (NHS), the government run hospital system.

"[M]y wife Lucy would have come under intolerable pressure to have a caesarean section," he commented, "for 'failure to progress,' since the birth was slow (72 hours)."

Shaw is not alone in his assessment of the poor health care provided by NHS to women in labor. A recent joint study by the National Childbirth Trust and the National Federation of Women's Institutes surveyed 2,500 women who have given birth since 2014. Many of the women reported feeling unsafe and frightened while in NHS facilities, describing their experience as being treated "like cattle" or being "on a conveyor belt."

NHS has a history of inducing labor and pushing traumatic caesarean sections, rather than accompanying women through natural labor. This dramatically affects the number of mothers who are subsequently unable to breastfeed, who go on to experience postnatal depression and who report a lack of physical well being.

The ruling from the NMC, which immediately suspended the midwives' group in January, referenced U.K. legislation that made it mandatory "since 2014 for all healthcare professionals — including midwives — to have an indemnity arrangement in place." 

The midwives attest that two independent assessments had concluded that they do in fact have adequate insurance coverage.

The government informed the midwives last August that they were looking into the group's insurance coverage, but assured them there was nothing to be alarmed about. But the sudden January 11 ruling declared that all midwives associated with IMUK were immediately suspended owing to lack of "sufficient financial resources to meet the costs of a successful claim for damages for a range of situations."

Jackie Smith, chief executive of NMC, was asked repeatedly on air by host Beverly Turner how she had determined that the midwives suffered from a lack of adequate coverage and what adequate coverage they needed to remedy the problem. Smith would not answer. Turner also brought up the fact that the actuary investigating IMUK on behalf of the government said he couldn't finish the insurance study owing to lack of time and the complexity of the issue. Smith was silent on this as well.

I believe that for many years the NMC have been trying to 'outlaw' independent midwifery as it challenges mainstream care within the NHS.

Church Militant reached out to Lynn Walcott, a retired midwife and member of IMUK for comment. Walcott thinks the problem runs deeper than the government's allegations of the midwives' unconfirmed lack of insurance coverage. "I believe that for many years the NMC have been trying to 'outlaw' independent midwifery as it challenges mainstream care within the NHS," said Walcott.

She noted the quality of care that IMUK offers birthing mothers: "Many reliable and respected researchers worldwide have concluded that the model of care that IM's in the UK provide is the 'gold standard,' and yet this is not good enough for the NMC."

In contrast, Walcott had little praise for the quality of government-run birthing centers. "I have acted as an expert witness for an IM when the NMC had brought a case, and I have witnessed other NMC cases — the poor standard the officers of the NMC have shown in any understanding of midwifery care has been shocking."

The website, Save Our Midwives, was started on behalf of IMUK for those who wish to support the continuance of independent midwifery in the United Kingdom.

 

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Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.

Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. is a staff writer for ChurchMilitant.com.

Follow Bradley on Twitter: @BradleyLEli