I first met Jacque Gerrard in real life, as opposed to Twitter, at the ‘Caring for the Carers’ (in this context, carers = professional staff) maternity conference at George Eliot hospital, Nuneaton. It was an amazing event.
Jacque was a keynote speaker and I found her talk fascinating and compelling, particularly talking about the culture of undermining that can exist and the combined work that the RCM/RCOG have been doing to address this.
Jacque’s powerful presentation chimed with the #KHFTWhoseShoes work that I am currently doing at Kingston Hospital with Florence Wilcock, building on the #MatExp work that bought us together. Jacque and I had a long and energising conversation discussing synergy between the work we are all doing.
I loved Jacque’s honesty around a very difficult subject (bullying, harassment, undermining) and how hard it can be to maintain momentum for positive change.
It didn’t surprise me to learn that she is a runner – her energy shone through.
We have since met at the Birth Tank event where Jacque got the chance to see Whose Shoes? briefly for the first time. She wasted no time in introducing Florence and me to Lesley Page. 🙂
When I realised that Jacque was doing the official opening of the new Birth Centre at Greenwich hospital, one of the five Trusts involved in our Whose Shoes? #MatExp pilots, it seemed a great opportunity for a guest blog. I was delighted when Jacque agreed to write her story to coincide with the official opening today – thank you, and I hope it all goes brilliantly…
In my Running Shoes …busy with a touch of cake and “call the midwife” – Jacque Gerrard RCM Director England
Its August already and where has the year gone? Perhaps all this running around England has something to do with my time flying by. Running was a big part of my life for several years fund raising for charity and keeping fit etc. but within this role there is not much time to run. Nonetheless my trainers are usually nearby even though I may not have time for a long run. Even if it’s a gentle jog round Regents Park which is close to RCM HQ then, I will try to squeeze in a quick run.
The last year has been very up and down for the midwifery profession as there has been both bad and good news regarding maternity care. Whilst acknowledging the negative issues it’s equally important to focus on the positives in an effort to improve maternity care. I am of the view that the midwifery profession are now moving forward and we are seriously taking the learning from our past mistakes with us as we race forward. I believe that for the sake of safer care and better outcomes for women and their families the profession and its leaders are determined to get maternity care absolutely right.
My evidence for this belief is based on what I witness as I visit maternity units, meet the women and meet the maternity teams. I also visit universities where the future midwives are being prepared and educated in readiness for registration. I am very encouraged when I meet students as part of my contribution is to give guest lectures to the student midwives.
So where have I been running to on professional visits?
I visited Worcester with RCM President Lesley Page for the official opening of the Meadow Birth Centre in April. Lesley opened the Birth Centre but the maternity team also had an additional royal visitor: Princess Anne, Patron of the Royal College of Midwives. The Princess Royal unveiled a plaque to commemorate the day and the team were delighted. I was impressed by the efforts the team had gone to for the opening which was wonderful. Attention to detail as rooms, mood lamps and cake baking were all on show. But the most impressive thing for me was the women who had been involved in the Birth Centre development. They told me how they had been invited to choose colour schemes and bring their ideas from user perspective for the birthing rooms.
Meeting our fantastic student midwives
There`s no doubt in my mind that midwives, students and support workers are facing some of the toughest challenges this profession has ever faced. The change in women’s expectations, the choice agenda, the emphasis on strong governance to support safe care, rising costs in healthcare v the NHS £22billion of productivity improvements as per the five year forward plan. Midwives really care about women and want to provide high quality safe care leaving women with a birth story they want to share with everyone in the present and in the longer term future.
Speaking of student midwives, I meet many and speak at the midwifery society events and at the universities but some students really do go that extra mile. I am often left feeling humbled but reassured that the future profession is in safe hands when I reflect on who I have met and what I have heard and seen. A few examples below.
- Nicolette Peel 2nd year student MW and chair of Mummy`s Star charity.
- Abbey Milne, Kate Mortimer and Gemma Sykes Bradford University Midwifery society, RCM runner up award winners and a VC Outstanding achievement award from the University of Bradford.
- Paulina Sporek 2nd year student MW and RCM award winner for her Deaf Nest initiative.
- Anne- Marie Thomas chair of the RCM student MW forum.
- Jonathan Cliffe from Bangor University British Journal of Midwifery runner up award winner. He shares great practice via social media.
- Hannah Tizard first year student MW Optimal Cord clamping campaigner
Born to Safe Hands 2 Conference in Bolton
I have chaired and spoken at many conferences all well organised and well evaluated but most have a degree of investment and resource which all helps towards a good event. However the one that always amazes me is the conference in March 2015 at Bolton, delivered by two clinical, passionate and caring midwives, Annabel Nicholas and Jo Carnac. They have delivered this conference twice now but on a shoestring budget and with no sponsorship. The high profile speakers, including Denis Walsh, Cathy Warwick, Sheena Byrom and Professor Soo Down and more always amaze me. How do these busy midwives deliver a fantastic conference whilst still managing to deliver quality maternity care in Bolton?
Birth Tank Event
Another important event which I attended as I run around the country was the recent Birth Tank event in London hosted by the NHSE Maternity services review team. The chair is Baroness Cumberlege and there are a lot of prestigious stakeholders involved including the RCM’s CEO, Professor Cathy Warwick. See link for further information.
There was a lot of discussion about the need for continuing investment in maternity care whilst balancing this with the reality of the financial challenges within the NHS. Many stakeholders have concerns regarding the future model of maternity care as we realise the need to consider working differently, smarter and more efficiently whilst improving outcomes and ensuring women and their families have a positive birth experience. That’s a huge challenge: I came away feeling positive but at the same time a little anxious. Will postnatal care still be part of the women’s journey or is this something that will not be prioritised in the future as difficult financial decisions are made. I sincerely hope that postnatal care remains a priority for the NHS Review team.
As I travel and run across the four corners of England, I am feeling positive and this is due to seeing for myself many outstanding and committed midwives, teachers, leaders, students, support workers and medical staff across the country providing wonderful maternity care.
From the North of England, to the Midlands and the South, the determination to provide safe and high quality care is driving improvements in maternity care forward. The commitment to get care right for women whilst balancing the ‘Choice and safe care’ agenda is obvious as I meet maternity teams and hear for myself about their commitment.
The maternity triathlon challenge:
The antenatal swim – Sometimes swimming against the current (barriers of rising costs) to achieve the standards and quality of antenatal care women deserve.
The birthing cycle and the three stages of labour – Midwives want to support women to have a safe birth with continuity and quality care where mother and baby remain healthy at every stage of labour. (More midwives required)
The run towards the finish line –Where a healthy baby is born and the close relationship of parenting between mum, her baby and partner begins. Giving the infant the best possible start in life supported by quality postnatal care. (Good postnatal care).
Can I see the finish line?
What I can see is that across England there is a commitment and serious determination to get maternity care absolutely ‘spot on right’. The leaders of the services within my profession the Heads of Midwifery (HOMS) are committed to improving care and working towards the ultimate finish line: Where every woman has a positive experience and a healthy outcome. But also a commitment from the profession itself. Midwives care about women and their birth experiences. Midwives like Sally Goodwin, Jenny Clarke, Jude Jones and many other fantastic midwives I meet. There are barriers and challenges to be overcome but the ‘will’ to get it right is definitely there.
Where am I running to next?
We are joined by fabulous “Call the Midwife” actress Laura Main who will be opening the birth centre and I will be joining her.
I am really looking forward to meeting the team again. I have visited a few times and watched this team grow and develop as they have come through some challenges that merging Trusts and reconfigured services bring.
This is a maternity service with strong leadership and commitment to the women. The new Birth Centre is beautiful and has been thought through carefully. The team have worked multi-professionally to get the Birth Centre absolutely right and involved local women in its development.
When there is a Birth Centre opening there are always mums, midwives and cake and Greenwich is no different. The cup cakes have been made by Head of Midwifery, Helen Knower and I am definitely looking forward to tasting these little tasty delights made with love, compassion and a willingness to get the maternity service “spot on right” for women and their families. Jackie Moulla, Consultant Midwife, has made some amazing little croc shoe cakes, reflecting the fact Lewisham and Greenwich were one of the Whose Shoes? pilots.
Thanks Gill Phillips @WhoseShoes for the opportunity to guest blog.
Thanks to Cathy Warwick and all RCM colleagues, particularly Louise Silverton and the wonderful Midwifery Directorate and the Country Directors at the RCM, for their continued help and support.