White Ribbon Alliance

Felicity Ukoko & Daughter by
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Respectful Care Included in Training

June 12, 2013

By Felicity Ukoko

Queen’s and King George Hospitals’ maternity services is striving to improve the quality of care for women. The maternity education team, supervisors of midwives and governance team at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) in collaboration with White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA) are playing a significant role in influencing and raising awareness of the importance of treating pregnant women with dignity and respect during maternity care.

Disrespect and abuse in childbirth is a known global issue. Not only is it an issue in developing countries, it is also an issue in developed countries. One of the key issues highlighted in the Care Quality Commission (2010) report on BHRUT maternity services was the lack of support provided to meet women’s and families’ needs. Consequently the issue of treating women with dignity and respect is at the forefront of the maternity service’s agenda. The maternity education team, supervisors of midwives and the governance team are well placed and have the potential to contribute significantly to the maternity and wider trust strategies to improve the quality of care that women receive during the perinatal period.

To address this issue the maternity education team, supervisors of midwives and the maternity governance team have joined forces with WRA and incorporated the WRA Respectful Maternity Care Charter into the mandatory training within maternity services. Mandatory means that all midwives and obstetric staff have to attend annually and the sessions are run on a bi-monthly basis. Therefore, the majority of maternity staff has an opportunity to attend.

The session kicks off with a presentation and gives a global perspective of the women’s experience in maternity care systems. The emphasis is made on the seven major categories of disrespect and abuse that child-bearing women encounter during maternity care.

This is followed by the education team and supervisors of midwives providing the local perspective of women’s experiences based on real complaints from women about their care. This is done via a presentation, with quotes from complaints as well as two role-plays. At the end of the play the Respectful Maternity Care video “Break the Silence” is shown.

The message is snappy, powerful and thought provoking. The sessions are attended by the Director of Midwifery who reiterates the importance of treating women with dignity and respect and also shares some positive feedback from women. Already we are seeing improvements. Complaints are down and women are reporting good care. We will continue to further improve the care that we provide to women and their families.

Feedback from staff has been very positive. The sessions have enabled healthcare professionals to talk about the issue of treating women with respect, to challenge bad behaviour and promote good quality care. We would like to encourage other hospitals/trusts to adopt the Respectful Maternity Care Charter on fundamental human rights of childbearing women and incorporate it into their training.