Mid­wives fight to stay in busi­ness

SER­VICE THREAT­ENED: In­sur­ance rules could force prac­tice close

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Nick Cullen

NEW reg­u­la­tions on med­i­cal in­sur­ance threaten to shut down Ash­ford’s thriv­ing in­de­pen­dent mid­wifery prac­tice when they come into force next year.

Vir­ginia Howe from Ash­ford and Kay Hardie from Mer­sham run the Kent Mid­wifery Prac­tice. Work­ing from home, they de­liver around 60 ba­bies a year in the county, and they are ex­pect­ing an­other, newly-qual­i­fied mid­wife to join the prac­tice later this year.

In Novem­ber, the chief nurs­ing of­fi­cer Chris Beasley sent out let­ters to Bri­tain’s 200 in­de­pen­dent mid­wives, in­form­ing them of pro­pos­als that would make it manda­tory for all health­care pro­fes­sion­als to have full pro­fes­sional in­dem­nity in­sur­ance (PII).

How­ever, in­de­pen­dent mid­wives are un­able to get in­sur­ance on the open mar­ket be­cause the po­ten­tial pay-outs for in­juries to new­born ba­bies are so high. In Fe­bru­ary, an NHS Trust paid £6.6m in an out of court set­tle­ment to a teenager from Ox­ford who suf­fered brain dam­age at birth.

Vir­ginia said: “If one claim for a baby is made, it eats up all the money in the pot. Mid­wives through­out the world have been try­ing to get in­sur­ance for many years but no in­sur­ance firm will do it for that rea­son.

“We’ve got ex­em­plary safety stan­dards. Mid­wives have a 15 per cent cae­sar­ian sec­tion rate na­tion­ally, and it’s only 12 per cent in Kent. In the NHS, that rate is 30 per cent.”

She added: “The Gov­ern­ment are say­ing that in­sur­ance equals safety, and of course it doesn’t. Good stan­dards and prac­tice in mid­wifery equal safety.”

De­part­ment of Health (DoH) of­fi­cials say they will help in­de­pen­dent mid­wives get the in­sur­ance they need to carry on prac­tis­ing.

The Gov­ern­ment’s sug­gested op­tions in­clude mid­wives sign­ing con­tracts with in­di­vid­ual NHS trusts, sub­con­tract­ing with GP prac­tices or af­fil­i­at­ing with pro­grams such as the DoH’s So­cial En­ter­prise scheme or the NHS Ma­ter­nal Link.

So­lu­tion

Vir­ginia said: “The pro­pos­als they have put for­ward so far are not work­able for in­de­pen­dent mid­wives, but we would wel­come sit­ting down with them and find­ing a so­lu­tion.

“Th­ese peo­ple don’t un­der­stand the is­sues. One in­di­vid­ual mid­wife might work across six trusts and hun­dreds of GP surg­eries.

“We are not go­ing to be ig­nored. We have NHS mid­wives on our side, be­cause if this goes on the only place for a mid­wife to work will be on the NHS, and there will be no choice for women.”

The cam­paign has an of­fi­cial web­site at www.savein­de­pende nt­mid­wifery.org where peo­ple can sign a pe­ti­tion con­demn­ing the reg­u­la­tions in their cur­rent form.

Pic­ture: Gary Browne pd1169225

Mid­wives Kay Hardie and Vir­ginia Howe with the let­ters about med­i­cal in­sur­ance

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