Midwives fight to stay in business
SERVICE THREATENED: Insurance rules could force practice close
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.
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.
Midwives Kay Hardie and Virginia Howe with the letters about medical insurance