‘We’ll fight new insurance laws’
PROTESTS: Mersham midwives target conference
AN ASHFORD woman playing a key role in the national mobilisation of midwives took to the streets of Brighton last week for more direct action against the legislation threatening to shut them down.
Virginia Howes and Kay Hardie, from Mersham, run the Kent Midwifery Practice. Together they deliver around 60 babies a year throughout the county.
In March, the Kentish Express reported that the practice, along with the other 200 midwives in the country working independently of the NHS, was under threat from a new law requiring all health professionals to have full professional indemnity insurance.
Because of the huge potential payouts for any mistakes made while delivering babies, it is impossible for independent midwives to pay open market insurance premiums, so in effect, the new law would force them either to work for the NHS or go out of business.
Since then, both Kay and Virginia have been helping to organise the campaign to get the legislation amended, with Virginia acting as spokesman for the Independent Midwives Association.
Last Tuesday she joined 300 other women for a protest outside the Metropole hotel in Brighton, where the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the midwives’ union, was holding its annual conference.
Although many independent midwives are members of the RCM, the campaigners say it has not given them the support they need.
Virginia said: “It was fabulous. We had a fantastic response and a great turnout of about 300 women, including midwives, mothers and grandmothers.
“The police were guarding the steps of the Metropole, so we stood outside and shouted. After about half an hour of shouting, a representative of the RCM came out, and eventually he understood that we were angry and we needed their support.”
RCM spokesman Colin Beasley said: “We are absolutely support- ive of them, and we have been and will continue to press the Government in order for them to continue to practice. There’s no doubt about it.”
However, Virginia remained critical of the RCM, saying: “It’s easy to say that when people ask you, but until they do something about it, we will be dissatisfied.
“They haven’t done anything. All they’ve done is say they are supporting us when the media have asked them.
“Any letters that members have written to them they’ve ignored, they haven’t come to our meetings, and they haven’t written about it in their publications.”
Despite these difficulties, Virginia is optimistic about the prospects for the campaign. She said: “It’s taken two protests now to get the RCM on board.
“Now we’ve got a meeting planned with them, and with health minister Lord Hunt, and we’ve also met with Christine Beasley, the chief nursing officer.
“It looks like things are taking a more positive turn,” said Virginia.
Midwives Kay Hardie and Virginia Howes
Midwives protest outside the RCM conference in Brighton