On Tuesday and Wednesday this week we not only remembered the fallen for Armistice Day, but it was the Royal College of Midwives annual conference 2015. Isosec have been at several conferences this year, but never before attended a Maternity/midwife specific event, despite our current star-product MIA being a mobile app solution for the postnatal workflow (thus all of our favourite people to work alongside at the moment being midwives!). The title for this year’s conference was ‘Better Births: Leading the Way for Maternity Care’, so we knew we had brought MIA to the right place.
Not only were we excited to be at the conference for the first time, but we were honoured to be joined by Alice Lewin, Group Practice Midwife at Imperial College NHS Trust who agreed to demonstrate what MIA could do, midwife to midwife. We know we are lucky to work with the team at Imperial and it’s a compliment that they love MIA so much that they want everybody to know about it!
Tuesday saw us spending a large portion of our time learning all about the other exhibitors and the diverse range of products they were offering. We heard Whittington talk about ‘Continuity in Postnatal Care’ and how they had fought for companions to be able to stay with mum’s after births; a hugely successful initiative.
Our highlight of the first day though had to be after lunch (no, not lunch itself), ‘Safety First? If It’s Obvious, Why The Challenge?’ chaired by RCM CEO Professor Cathy Warwick. A lady whom we have huge amounts of admiration for especially as she is affiliated with Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London, part of Imperial NHS who we work alongside to develop MIA- just one on a long list of her achievements!
The session was centred on the Morecambe Bay Investigation Report by Bill Kirkup, who was speaking about how systemic failings had allowed such a thing to happen. The focus however was less on the negative and more about how the attention to the issue has refocused the midwifery community to implement change for the better. Unfortunately for Bill (who laboured the point that it was not his investigation that had damned those involved but the media-spin on it) he was overshadowed by two much larger personalities on the stage, whose outspoken devotion to the idea of change and improving the lives of women giving birth to NHS midwives was moving and inspirational. Karen Guilliand, Chief Executive of New Zealand College of Midwives, discussed how they operate on the other side of the world and how no matter how tight you think a system is there is always room for improvement. Rebecca Schiller, Chair at Birthrights spoke with great clarity on the importance of making the woman the centre of care in midwifery.
The Morecambe Bay midwives did have a stand at the conference too, which was excellent to see. We got a chance to meet Sascha Wells, Deputy Director and Head of Midwifery and her team and we couldn’t think of more capable hands for the department to be in!
The Wednesday felt a little quieter to us, perhaps because Alice had to go back to being a midwife and we were left to our own devices on the stand. We heard a variety of topics discussed such as addressing the gender gap in midwifery,
‘We need to acknowledge that we are a consumer that is 100% women, and the service is delivered by nearly 100% women. So we are already on the back foot, right? The gender issue in midwifery needs to be acknowledged.’ – Rebecca Schiller, Birthrights.
As well as other topics such as reducing stillbirths, midwifery on the National agenda, NHS screening programmes and increasing normality for mum’s in labour.
Our highlight of the second day however had to be the afternoon session on ‘Maternal Mental Health: We Are Making A Difference’ chaired by Mary Ross-Davie from NHS Education, Scotland. Mary addressed the audience herself about From Bump to Bundles, an educational tool for midwives to better support women experiencing perinatal mental health problems, something that felt greatly received by the surrounding midwives as they commented on how there is such a lack of resources and training for them in the area.
We also heard from Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist Alain Gregoire, University of Southampton. Alain discussed #everyonesbusiness (go and look it up immediately) the latest campaign from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance for the government to release more funding for perinatal mental health (Did you know it would cost just an extra £12.50 for a midwife to be able to provide more specialist mental health care?):
‘If this [Mental Health] was Cardiology the NHS would be shut down overnight.’ – Alain Gregoire, Senior Lecturer, UHS
Finally Katrina Ashton, a specialist mental health midwife from Medway Maritime Hospital took to the stage and brought all of the statistics and practical elements home by referencing her own daughter giving birth in a beautiful calm environment. She reminded the room that perinatal mental health in particular is about a mum’s relationship with her mum, as much of it is passed on to her child, and how it specifically embodies the nature vs. nurture explorations.
Yes, the conference overall was as good as it sounds and we were certainly #PROUDTOBE a part of it. There is a great community in midwifery and despite the struggles they may be facing it is clear to see from this conference that they are forging ahead to implement change for best practice care across the country.
If you want to read more about the conference click here.