Headlines: May 15th, 2003

More money is to be put into recruiting midwives and there is to be a study into why members of the profession stay in the NHS and why others return to the service. At the same time, the government has announced improvements in maternity care to give mothers access to better information.The Health Minister, Jacqui Smith, highlighted the need to get more midwives into the NHS and said, following lobbying by the Royal College, a million pound fund was being set up to establish a strategy on midwife recruitment and retention.

The money will be used to pay for a number of initiatives. From June, Sandra Walsh, a midwife with extensive experience will become National Champion to lead on recruitment retention and return to practice for midwives. Three-quarters of a million pounds will go to pay for 500 return to practice places following concerns expressed by the Royal College that some midwives have difficulty attending full-time courses and that there is a lack of support for those returning to work and undergoing refreshment training. A distance learning pack will be developed for midwives coming back to the profession to assist those who cannot access full-time courses.

At the same time there is to be a seventy thousand pound study to discover why midwives stay in the health service and why they choose to return to it.

On improving services, Jacqui Smith, has also announced that the government will work with the Dr Foster organisation to produce local maternity guides that will be published by the end of the year. The guides will be centrally funded and will be given to all mums-to-be, detailing services in their area. Each will normally cover several local maternity units, allowing women to compare services. The guides will be in a popular magazine format with celebrity and real life stories.

The minister said midwives were constantly working to improve maternity services and the care for women and their families. She cited examples of innovation, including in South Derbyshire, where midwives have helped to increase breastfeeding rates and in Liverpool, where midwives working across four hospitals have joined forces with their Primary Care Trusts and higher education institutes to tackle domestic violence.