Head of the RCM (Royal College of Midwives), Gail Walton, has apologised for the part the organisation played in promoting “normal births” which has led to the deaths of mothers and babies. She has said some midwives turned efforts to improve maternity care into a dangerous ideology that went too far.
In the past, aspects of the campaigns by the RCM, said “Intervention and caesarean shouldn’t be the first choice — they should be the last.” Various investigations into poor maternity care in England have uncovered findings that midwives delayed taking action where mothers or babies were struggling in labour, in order to prioritise normal births.
An inquiry will deliver its verdict this month on poor maternity care at the Shrewsbury Telford Hospital NHS Trust, the largest maternity scandal in NHS history which has involved over 1800 families.
Walton, who qualified as a midwife in the 1980’s and became chief executive of the RCM in 2017, says “We don’t promote an ideology. We can’t. We have to promote what is safe for women. At the beginning, I think the normal birth campaign was doing the right thing, but there are some elements that when we look back, they are not as evidence-based as we would have wanted.”
She has been asked how she responded to families who have been harmed, she said “If a midwife was just waiting and seeing and not making the right decision to refer a woman, then that is not right. We have to acknowledge that, and if that contributed to poor decision-making among midwives, then we have to apologise to families.”
In February NHS England dropped the use of caesarean section targets which were being used as a measure for performance due to concerns for the safety of mothers and babies. The UK is one of the safest countries for woman to give birth in, although the rate of infant mortality is higher than most European countries.
Co-head of Tozers’ Medical Negligence team Endurance Arthur comments:
The RCM cannot turn back the clock to undo the damage which resulted from the campaigns to promote “normal births”. The apology is very welcome following the much needed removal last month of the targets which penalise maternity services with high Caesarean section rates.
How we can help
If you or your family have suffered because of medical negligence, we’ll help you to rebuild your life for the future. Contact us today and let us help you.