Defending midwives' role


Madam, – The Nurses and Midwives Bill must be amended before it becomes law.

We need a Bill that will, in effect: 1. Give women greater access to midwives – the experts in normal birth – in a choice of settings, home, hospital or local birth centre and enable them to exercise their right to choice in childbirth. 2. Keep midwives in midwifery and in Ireland by enabling them to practise in all areas of midwifery, not only in hospital settings, but also in the community, offering antenatal and/or postnatal care as well as home birth services, like their counterparts in other EU member states.

The amendments we propose will ensure the development of midwifery through: 1. Empowering midwifery by treating it equally with other professions and legislating for its separate governance within the board. Regulation, not subjugation, is what is required. 2. Meeting parents’ needs by linking indemnity with registration, not statute. Public safety is ensured through competence assurance, viz, continuing professional development, peer review and audit, not mandating insurance that may be inaccessible. This effectively criminalises clinical decision-making by midwives and will leave vulnerable women and their babies without care.

The regulation of midwifery largely determines the structure of maternity care: this Bill will set both in stone for the next quarter of a century. Our amendments are critically important not only for the future of the profession but for the wellbeing of mothers and babies.

Maternity service users and childbirth groups from across the country; midwives in all areas, from students to professors, and frontline staff to hospital managers; childbirth educators, public health nurses, doulas, physiotherapists and sociologists, all (90 signatories) are united in their support for these amendments. – Yours, etc,

Prof CECILY M BEGLEY, Chair of Nursing and Midwifery;

Dr JO MURPHY-LAWLESS, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin;

DECLAN DEVANE, Visiting Fellow UK, Cochrane Centre School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway;

CATHERINE LILLIS, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, UL;

RHONA O’CONNELL, School of Nursing Midwifery, UCC;

BRIDGET SHEERAN, President, Community Midwives Association Cork;

ELIZABETH BANNON, Supervisor of Midwives, Co-director for Women’s Services, Belfast;

Dr KRYSIA LYNCH JENE KELLY, Association for Improvements in Maternity Services Irelandl;

GERALDINE CAHILL, President Cuidiu

MARGUERITE HANNAN, Home Birth Association of Ireland,

C/o Baltimore, Cork.