In the current economic climate when families are struggling with everything from employment to food it is incredibly heart warming to know that a dedicated band of midwives are coming to the end of the beginning of their long standing battle to improve the UK maternity services.
Campaigning for normal birth
The Independent Midwifery Association (IMA) has for several years been campaigning for NHS funding for their work; insured midwives with a small caseload offering continuity of care wrapped around a home birth service. Their website Neighbourhood Midwives clearly states their vision and purpose. “We are currently setting up an employee-owned social enterprise organization. Our primary purpose is to provide an NHS commissioned caseload midwifery homebirth service, based in the local community, wherever it is required.” Planning to pilot in London they want to be commissioned around the country and are reaching out to commissioners, midwives and mothers to support their endevours.
With all my heart I hope this succeeds. This has many of the hallmarks that Maternal Link has been campaigning for, also for many years. Indeed the concept of a social enterprise providing an umbrella organisation to support local community midwives was what I met with Brenda van der Kooy and Liz Nightingale, board members of the IMA, to discuss when I first started campaigning for this very concept.
With the government titling policy documents such as ‘liberating the NHS’ and GP commissioning on the cusp of implementation it looks like the time has finally come to celebrate patient choice, diversity of provider and women finally being at the centre of care.
However, though I would happily lie back and dream of this vision I fear that the reality of the existing NHS structure may continue to keep from us the variety and quality of healthcare provision we crave. GPs will have a vested interest in keeping their local hospitals afloat, hospitals will have a vested interest in keeping their maternity services within their financial control. Women may not be made aware of the choices available to them and certainly may not be told the huge benefits of the Neighbourhood Midwives model.
I suspect this success opens the next chapter in the ongoing struggle to improve the British maternity services. Soon, we will be able to celebrate a landmark number of years for striving for this cause though I fear it will not be to celebrate an out and out victory.