Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

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From next year the Government has pledged that all women will be offered a choice of where to give birth including at home but so far only half of women are reporting that they were offered a home birth.

A recent survey carried out by www.netmums.com revealed that as many as one-third of all women in NHS hospitals are left alone and worried during, or shortly after childbirth and more than 30 per cent of mums polled received no NHS antenatal classes and 43 per cent did not have access to a midwife on a postnatal ward.

Women who participated in the poll were also very critical of postnatal care, including support offered for breast-feeding, this is despite the fact that the Government is now putting huge investment into improving breastfeeding rates; some women also mentioned that they felt the lack of care had led to postnatal depression.

Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said maternity services in England are at a critical point; she said that progress was being made. but went on to say that the target to give women a choice of where to give birth looked like it would be missed.  Warwick said surveys suggested full choice was only offered in about 50% of cases.  She also said services were also struggling to cope with the rising birth rate  which has jumped by 20% since 2001.

The RCM say that staffing numbers have increased, but by less than 10%, leaving the health service short of 5,000; they also highlighted that student midwives are finding it difficult to gain employment.

Last week nurse Margaret Haywood was struck of the nurses register by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) -the professional body for nurses and midwives in the UK.

Between December 2004 and May 2005 Ms Haywood worked as a bank nurse on on Peel and Stewart ward at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton during this time she kept a diary and undertook secret filming on behalf on the BBC television programme Panorama and a documentary was screened in July 2005.

Ms Haywood, a nurse with 20 years experience, was accused and found guilty of:

(i) Raising concerns about patient care in the BBC Panorama documentary “Under Cover Nurse” when you should have reported the concerns in accordance with Trust policy;

(ii) Breaching patient confidentiality.

The actions of the NMC have caused strong reactions, the union Unite accused the NMC of being ‘heavy handed’ in its treatment of Ms Haywood.

Karen Reay, Unite’s officer for health, said: ‘We can’t have a culture where ‘whistle blowers’ feel intimated into not legitimately reporting wrong doing and bad practice in the NHS. We need a safe environment for ‘whistle blowers’ who feel that they can complain without losing their livelihood.

‘There appears to be a number of extenuating circumstances in the case of Margaret Haywood and the NMC could have imposed a lesser punishment than that of being struck off.’

‘The NMC exists as a regulatory body to protect patients and clients first and foremost, and not the alleged failings of members of the nursing profession in caring for the elderly.’

Ms Haywood admitted breaching patient confidentiality, but said that she had agreed to film undercover inside the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton to highlight the awful conditions on the wards.

The programme’s producer Elizabeth Bloor had told the tribunal that “there was an over-arching public interest” in the footage being broadcast.  At the time of the filming the hospital had serious problems with the lowest “star” rating, an £8 million deficit and was receiving complaints about the standards of care given.

After the Panorama programme concerns about standards of care were raised in the House of Commons after the programme and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust issued a public apology admitting “serious lapses in the quality of care”.

The actions of the NMC appear to raise questions for NHS staff about how they are able to expose inadequacies in our healthcare system, particularly as Ms Haywood indicated that she had attempted to discuss concerns with her manager with little effect.

www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6106326.ece

www.nursingtimes.net/nmc-defends-decision-to-strike-off-undercover-nurse-margaret-haywood/5000608.article

I have just learnt that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) www.rcn.org.uk and an organisation called CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS (UK)) www.suspension-nhs are fully supporting Ms Haywood stating that a “grave miscarriage of justice” has taken place.  There is also a petition in support of Ms Haywood at www.gopetition.com/online/27030.html


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