We Won't Allow a 'Conveyor-Belt' Approach to Births; Following Fears That NHS Trusts across the Midlands May Be Risking the Safety of Mothers and Babies by Using Maternity Support Workers, Health Correspondent Emma Brady Examines the Issues
Byline: Emma Brady
Traditionally, a midwife would be involved in all aspects of a birth, from a woman's arrival on the ward, to delivering the baby, and advising on how best to feed newborns.
But these responsibilities have now been handed down to an array of auxiliary staff, to allow midwives to focus on the mother's clinical care.
An independent study for the Department of Health found a number of trusts in England were converting midwife positions into roles for lesser qualified maternity support workers (MSWs). The requirement for an entry-level role is "a good, basic education" to GCSE or A level standard. An NVQ Level 2 in Care is a "desirable" qualification.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt insisted MSWs would not be substitutes for professionally qualified midwives, but the King's College report found they were doing tasks that required specialist knowledge and training.
Jean Walker, head of midwifery at City Hospital, in Winson Green, firmly believes midwives will not allow "a 'conveyor-belt' approach" to births to develop.
"Midwives are very protective of their profession, and of their relationship with their patients, so we've been very resistant to letting other people into it," said Mrs Walker.
"I can see why people might worry about what could happen if we used support workers more, but these tabloid fears that they'll be delivering babies are just not founded, because the bottom line is it's illegal. Only doctors and midwives can deliver a baby.
"I don't think we'll ever see a 'conveyor-belt' approach to midwife-led births, the profession would not allow that to happen."
Mrs Walker added: "They are there to provide assistance to midwives, whether that's advising new mothers on parent craft or how to breast feed to filling in paperwork and other auxiliary tasks, that's all.
"With extra training they can graduate to a higher MSW role within three years, and at that point they may want to consider going into nursing. …