Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Hosptials Using Unqualified Support Workers to do Job of Midwives

Last month Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said maternity support workers were "not a substitute for midwives". However, a new report released today contradicts Hewitt's previous statement. The report which was commissioned by Hewitt says that the lives of mothers and their babies is being put at risk by NHS hospitals which use unqualified "maternity support workers" to do the work of trained midwives.

Research shows maternity support workers are carrying out internal examinations, ultrasounds, and pre-natal screening counselling and advising parents about important tests to detect foetal abnormalities. They are also being used as the sole night cover at some midwife-led birth units.

Prof Jane Sandall, lead author of the report by the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King's College, London said, "There is a danger that support workers could cease to become another pair of hands. Instead, they may be called upon to substitute care provided by midwives, without sufficient investment in their training or development."

There is no national training program for maternity support workers with most trusts insisting they take only an NVQ ( a qualification course lasting only 15 days) versus midwives who endure a rigorous 3 year training program. I would consider the birth of a child one of the most, if not the most, important event in a person's life.
It is completely unacceptable that these unqualified workers who are meant for jobs such as cleaning up are advising patients of the results of potentially devastating tests and being used as sole night cover for midwife led birth units.

Royal College of Midwives adviser Sue Jacob said it would be 'nothing short of scandalous' if support workers were left doing the job of midwives. "Women want nothing less than a midwife by their side when they are in labour. We know from all the research that's been done that continuous care from an experienced professional makes a huge difference to the safety of both the mother and the child."

In an attempt to mitigate the damage of this report a Department of Health spokeswoman said,"It is completely unacceptable if a hospital is using a maternity support worker as a substitute for a midwife, and the chief nursing officer has written to all trusts to clarify this and asked that they review the working practices of all support workers, ensuring maternity services are provided safely." However in the beginning of April, Hewitt admitted that midwives would probably not be present during the whole labour in any NHS hospital and campaigners said that costs could be cut by using "maternity support workers" not midwives during the majority of the labour process. This was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now.

Perhaps if this Government spent less money on surveillance and spy planes they would have enough left to gives mothers and babies the care they deserve. Who knows, they might even have enough left over to improve the education they receive after birth to a reasonable standard. What the Government needs to realize is there are more important things then knowing when Joe comes home from work or having little Michael yelled at by a camera for dropping a chocolate wrapper on the sidewalk.

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