Plan to drop NMC midwifery committee 'could affect patient safety'

If government proposal goes ahead, regulation will largely be determined by another profession, warns Royal College of Midwives chief
Cathy Warwick

Government plans to abolish the UK's statutory midwifery committee could affect the safety of women and babies, according to the Royal College of Midwives.

The Department of Health (DH) is consulting on changes to how the Nursing and Midwifery Council regulates midwifery.

Proposals include removing the committee, which advises NMC council on midwifery matters.

The NMC is not required to have an equivalent statutory nursing committee and the government wants to see common regulatory procedure across the two professions.

'Retrograde step'

Royal College of Midwives (RCM) chief executive Cathy Warwick said removing the committee without undertaking a wider review of regulation and creating a separate register for midwives, was 'a retrograde step' that would undermine the profession and 'impact on the safety of women and babies’.

Professor Warwick wrote in a blog post: ‘The committee is the formal route for the midwifery voice to be heard within a nursing-dominated organisation – 95% of the register are nurses. 

‘This is unlike other regulators, which are either single professions or have more proportionate numbers of each profession. 

‘Without the voice of the committee, regulation for midwives will be largely determined by another profession.’

Other suggested changes include removing statutory supervision of midwives by the NMC and replacing it with a non-statutory system of clinical supervision. 

In its consultation document, the DH says the proposal would not remove the NMC’s statutory duty to consult midwives on relevant matters, or prevent it from establishing committees or groups on midwifery – it would only remove the statutory requirement to have a midwifery committee.

Papers from the most recent NMC council meeting, held last month, reveal the existing committee intends to make suggestions to the council about how it can continue to access information from the midwifery community without a statutory committee.

Independent voice

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said: 'We are clear the distinct and independent voice of midwifery is critical to patient safety and must continue to be heard.
'We have already established a midwifery panel to advise the NMC on future models of engagement with midwives, which includes the RCM’s chief executive.'
The NMC has said the changes could occur by early 2017.

Further information: 

Department of Health consultation on changes to NMC governing legislation