Media release in response to Health and Disability Commissioner report 14HDC01440

New initiatives being implemented this year will further ensure all midwives understand the requirement to use the Guidelines for Consultation with Obstetric and Related Medical Services (the Referral Guidelines) and continue to make timely referrals to specialists when necessary, says Associate Professor Judith McAra Couper, Chair of the Midwifery Council.

The Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) today released a report into the appropriateness of the care provided by a midwife during 2014. The HDC criticised the midwife involved (Ms A) for failing to follow up on advice from the radiologist, for not arranging a full assessment of Mrs D and for not keeping accurate written records of significant events.

“The Midwifery Council has now received the report from the HDC and will consider his recommendations at our meeting this week,” says Judith McAra Couper. “Working in partnership with the woman is key to good midwifery practice, and the midwife must ensure that all communication is effective and that she is responsive to the woman’s concerns. In this case, the midwife’s decision-making process was flawed and she did not take appropriate and timely actions in relation to the woman’s condition. This not the standard midwives are expected to practise at.”

The Council received notice from the HDC on 5 August 2015 that it was commencing an investigation into the complaint against the midwife. While awaiting the outcome of the HDC investigation,  the Council took the initative and made a number of recommendations to the midwife about ways she could strengthen her practice.

The Midwifery Council acts as the guardian of professional standards for midwives. All midwives must demonstrate ongoing competence each year by participating in the Council’s Recertification Programme which includes compulsory refresher courses including applying the Referral Guidelines in practice. “The guidelines protect everybody. It is one of the ways we keep mothers and babies safe, and how midwives work with their obstetric, pediatric and other colleagues when cases become complicated. We cannot eliminate all risk but we can do everything possible to ensure the safety of mothers and babies,” says Judith McAra Couper.

A campaign to clearly communicate with midwives about safe and professional practice is a priority this year. The campaign also targets mothers to encourage them to check with the Council that their midwife is registered and her annual practising certificate is up to date.

“We’re confident that midwives follow the Referral Guidelines, consulting with specialists when cases become complex and have a high degree of professionalism in all dealings with women and babies in their care. The Council is clear that this is the standard expected of every midwife and will hold midwives to account if they do not maintain these high standards ” says Judith McAra Couper.


Spokespeople available:

Sharron Cole, Chief Executive/Registrar, Midwifery Council

Dr Judith McAra Couper, Chair of the Midwifery Council, Associate Professor and Head of School of Midwifery at Auckland University of Technology