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Dan Poulter MP: Hear Women's Voices, Respect Women's Choices, Meet with IMUK!

UPDATE: 26th April - IMUK have received word from Dan Poulter's office that he will meet with them on 7th May. IMUK are grateful to everyone who helped them campaign for this.

OK, before we start, well Dan Poulter, he's the Health Minister for Women's Health. There are several different Health Ministers, all of whom report to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health. You knew all that, right? Yup, me too, me too, just checking.

So - Independent Midwives, who as we know, face becoming illegal and extinct from October 2013, have been trying to get a meeting with Dan Poulter for several months to discuss their demise and gain his help and support.

Meeting with Dan Poulter is key to the IM's campaign. And yet, not only is he refusing to meet with them, he seems to be actively avoiding them.

For example, IM's and their supporters have sent Christmas cards, Valentines cards, and hundreds of letters explaining their situation and the barriers they face in careful detail. Dan Poulter did not acknowledge the contents of a single letter in a personal way and instead sent out standard replies.

About 600 supporters demonstrated outside parliament on 25th March and several MP's came outside to meet with them. Dan Poulter did not meet with any of his constituents. 

Nicky Garret, Independent Midwife and one of Dan Poulter's constituents has asked to meet with him at his MP surgery. Dan Poulter has tried to discourage this meeting saying that he can only talk in his surgery about constituency issues. Nicky Garret intends to attend the appointment anyway, later this week.

There are several possible reasons why Dan Poulter is behaving in this way.

Firstly, it's possible that he feels that a solution has been found for IM's in the form of social enterprise companies - the suggestion is basically that they band together to form one formally constituted legal entity - however, IM's feel (and they have told Dan Poulter such), that this is not a solution they are happy with, as, above all, their work would then cease to be 'independent midwifery'. They also point out that a similar project, Neighbourhood Midwives, has had £260k of public money invested in it and yet has not so far been able to secure a contract from NHS commissioners.

Secondly, Dan Poulter seems reluctant to acknowledge and respond to Recommendation 20 in the Finlay Scott Review (an independent report on the requirement to have insurance as a condition of registration for health professionals):

"In respect of independent midwifery, the review recommended that for groups for whom the market does not provide affordable insurance or indemnity, the four health departments should consider whether it is necessary to enable the continued availability of the services provided by those groups; and, if so, the health departments should seek to facilitate a solution.” 

And thirdly, we could speculate that Dan Poulter's own life experience is getting in the way of his judgement. He's a medical doctor who specialises in Obstetrics, and as a Senior Health Officer, he would have spent six months working in the area of complicated birth. It's unlikely he would have ever seen a normal birth, and certainly almost out of the question that he would have attended the sort of blissful home birth that IM's specialise in.

Perhaps someone who has such a tainted view of birth is the wrong person to be appealing to for help in this instance? However, Dan is the man, IM's need him to meet, listen and help, and they are now calling on him in an Open Letter (see below), which has also been sent to senior Ministers, the Cabinet, and the national press.

IMUK requests an urgent meeting with Dan Poulter, Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron before the 10th May. A Department of Health consultation on this matter ends on 17th May. Time is running out.

It seems extraordinary that the plight of Independent Midwives is being ignored by the government - effectively they seem willing to stand by and watch them disappear, in spite of their offering a standard of midwifery which currently meets the Governments own targets, as set out in documents like Maternity Matters, for example:
  • choice in maternity care 
  • continuity of care 
  • increased home birth rates 
  • increased normal birth rates
  • increased breastfeeding rates
  • increased satisfaction 
And they say money talks, especially when you are trying to get a politician's attention, so how's this: Independent Midwives care for approximately 3000 women a year, an estimated saving of £12 million for the NHS. This figure could increase as thousands more midwives would work self-employed if insurance was available. At a time of a rising birth rate of 22% and a deficit of 5000 midwives, the Government are ignoring part of the solution to the plight of childbearing women and the national midwifery shortage.

As some of you know, this issue is personal for me. I was attended by IM's Chrissy Hustler and Caroline Baddiley for my second daughter's birth nearly three years ago, and together they gave me the most priceless gifts - confidence, courage, fortitude, strength, and a completely incredible birth experience that I will never forget. Pregnant again at the moment I'm working with Tara Windmill Robson, who comes to see me every two or three weeks, usually with her armfuls of books, fun craft ideas for my girls, love and inspiration. I can't wait to give birth in her inspiring presence.

However, due in September, I deeply fear that I may become one of the last UK women to give birth with an IM and experience this amazing standard of care. Losing IM's will be a great loss to the entire midwifery profession, leaving no alternative choice to the NHS in this country.

So finally Dan Poulter, a personal plea from me: do these wonderful women the respect and courtesy of meeting with them, and help to keep birth choice, and normal unmedicalised birth, alive in the UK. For whilst you might be an expert in obstetrics, I doubt you've ever been present at a birth moment like this one, and if you don't help save IM's, it might become even rarer and harder to come by than it is already.

A copy of the Open Letter to Dan Poulter from IMUK is pasted below.

Please sign the petition to support Independent Midwives, click here.

Please write to your MP, join the facebook page Choose Your Midwife, Choose Your Birth, get tweeting, blogging and sharing.

Contact Dan Poulter himself and DEMAND that he meets with IMUK before 10th May. 

Thank you.

To Dan Poulter, Health Minister 

Cc Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron, Stephen Dorrell, Margaret Hodges, Members of the Cabinet, National Press

Open letter to Dan Poulter and the Government from Independent Midwives UK 

Further to your standard issue letter dated 16th April 2013, in response to Independent Midwives UK (IM UK) correspondence, public campaigning, petitioning and public rallying regarding the issue of finding workable, affordable insurance for Independent Midwives to comply with EU Directive (2011/24/EU). We publicly state how extremely frustrated and concerned IM UK are by both your complete refusal to meet with board members of the organisation, and the obscene inertia in firing off standard responses to letters, Christmas cards and Valentine cards sent by members of the public over the last few months.

IM UK represents the only health professionals who will be outlawed in October as a result of the linking insurance to registration; it is not only short sighted to refuse to meet with us, but is insulting and unprofessional to do so in such a manner. You have agreed meetings with The Royal College of Midwives and Neighbourhood Midwives – organisations who support IM UK, but whom are not directly affected by the legislation and have their own campaigns to fight. We believe that you are unwilling to meet with IM UK, because acknowledging support for Independent Midwives from the public and maternity stake holder organisations in the UK would entail you having to recognise and respond to Recommendation 20 in the Finley Scott review: 

"In respect of independent midwifery, the review recommended that for groups for whom the market does not provide affordable insurance or indemnity, the four health departments should consider whether it is necessary to enable the continued availability of the services provided by those groups; and, if so, the health departments should seek to facilitate a solution.” 

The independent review by Finlay Scott states that it is through no fault of our own that indemnity insurance is not available - lack of availability is due to commercial reasons and not for clinical risk. We see no evidence of you honouring the recommendation Mr Poulter; indeed there is mounting evidence that you are actively trying to avoid it! Independent Midwives will no longer be able to register, simply because insurance is not available, and women will lose the choice of a safe alternative to the NHS. 

The DoH continually claims that a solution has been found in social enterprise companies; £260,000 of public money was invested in the Neighbourhood Midwives project, which whilst a potential alternative to the NHS, it is not independent midwifery and to date it has not been able to secure a contract from NHS commissioners.

Independent Midwives are fully qualified and regulated; they are the midwives who provide the maternity care you promised your voters in Maternity Matters and other documents. This includes:

· Choice in maternity care
· continuity of carer
· increased home birth rates
· increased normal birth rates
· increased breastfeeding rates
· increased satisfaction

The Government are making illegal the only midwifery service which fully meets these criteria. Independent Midwives save the NHS an estimated £12 million a year by providing a high standard of care for women outside the system. There is a rising birth rate in the UK of 22% and a deficit of 5000 midwives; losing Independent Midwives will only compound the problem. Does the government that supposedly supports choice want to be responsible for women losing this choice and for increasing further burden on the NHS?

In summary, IM UK and its supporters have informed you of the barriers facing Independent Midwives in accessing insurance many times. Our requests for meetings have been refused; you are avoiding the voice of the thousands of voters who have pledged support and engaged in this campaign; it is disrespectful that you ignore these concerns and respond with ill thought -out standard replies - replies which ignore specific questions and only waste more taxpayers’ money.

IM UK again requests an urgent meeting with you, Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron to discuss this issue before 10th May.

Jacqui Tomkins (Chair IMUK)


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