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Review of Maternity Services in Wellington Area

Media Statement from The Midwifery Council, 9 October 2008

Review of the Quality, Safety and Management of Maternity Services in the Wellington Area

Chairperson Sally Pairman says the Midwifery Council is pleased the report on the review on Wellington maternity services, released today by the Ministry of Health, has upheld Council’s view that maternity services are safe and that midwives provide high quality care.

Most recommendations address areas that have already been recognised and actioned. However, the report adds support for strategies that are now in place to strengthen the midwifery workforce. These strategies include changes to midwifery education, a support programme for new graduate midwives in their first year of practice, and the requirement for all midwives to annually demonstrate continuing competence in order to practise.

Council reviewed midwifery education and released new standards in 2007 which require increased midwifery practice experience for midwifery students and flexible delivery of programmes in order to increase graduate numbers. These new standards are being implemented in New Zealand’s five midwifery programmes from 2009 and Council is pleased government has announced funding to increase midwifery student numbers — Government expects there will be up to 80 new places for first year midwifery students from 2009. Council is also delighted to see the Minister’s confirmation today of funding for on-going post-graduate education for midwives as it believes this is an important workforce retention strategy.

Earlier in the year, the Minister confirmed ongoing funding for the Midwifery First Year of Practice programme. This programme began in 2007 and provides mentoring and support for new graduate midwives. Council is currently working with the New Zealand College of Midwives and other stakeholders in a formal review which will further strengthen this programme.

Since 2005, Council has required all midwives to participate in its recertification programme in order to gain an annual practising certificate. This programme includes an update of emergency skills, participation in continuing education and professional activity and individual two-yearly reviews against standards of practice and competencies. Council’s consultation with stakeholders at the end of the first three-year cycle confirmed that the recertification programme is impacting positively on the already high standards of midwifery care.

While two of today’s recommendations focus on new graduate midwives, Council has no evidence to support concerns about the competence of this group. Council deals with complaints about a small number of midwives and, in four years, only two of these have been about a new graduate midwife. In that time some 434 have graduated from a New Zealand midwifery programme. The recommendation for mandatory supervision of midwives will be considered by Council over the next two months and within the context of the midwifery first year of practice programme. While Council agrees consumers have a right to information about practitioners including their qualifications and experience, any recommendation for new graduate midwives to inform women of these factors must also apply to all practitioners across all areas of the health system.


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