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orginally published: 13/4/17 in Wellmother blog

I wrote recently in this Blog about why it is important to support independent midwives in the UK, however in the UK we had from 1997 to 2009 a wonderful model of midwifery support for women in London on the NHS: the Albany Midwives. This Gold Standard practice was shown by independent researchers to have outstanding outcomes for mothers and babies. Sadly, despite this, the practice was closed in 2009 by King’s College hospital due to safety concerns, which were unfounded. It is interesting to ponder how women who were booked with independent midwives are now in a similar situation. Why are such good practices which support women not being given the full support of the Midwifery Council and the medical services? It has been shown time and time again that good midwifery support is what women want. They want to feel emotionally and physically cared for as well as feeling there is appropriate medical support. This approach reduces interventions in labour and support breastfeeding and enables mothers and babies to have the best possible start in life.

The Albany practice was looking after all women who were referred to them who included those with straightforward or complex pregnancies. Despite this almost 80% of women had spontaneous vaginal births; nearly 44% gave birth at home; the caesarean section rate was 16% and nearly 75% of women were exclusively breastfeeding their babies a month after birth. The preterm birth and perinatal mortality rate was lower than in the rest of the UK over the same period. These are amazing statistics for any midwifery practice but even more so because 57% of the women looked after by the Albany Midwifery Practice were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities and a third of the women were single. Normally these women and babies have poorer outcomes. The national statistics for home births were less than 3% and the caesarean section rates were over 26%.

This information was reviewed by a team of researchers from the University of Technology, Sydney, and King’s College, London. They showed that using the ‘Albany Model of Care’ improved outcomes substantially while reducing perinatal mortality.

Here is some more information from AIMS  which is a wonderful organisation in the UK which exists to support women get the care they want

“The Albany Midwives (a group of 7 midwives) worked in an area of high social deprivation in South London for 12 and a half years between 1997 and 2009. They looked after all the women referred to them (over 2,500) whether or not they had straightforward or complex pregnancies. The midwives provided continuity of carer and nearly all the women were able to get to know and trust one or two named midwives who then looked after them during pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatally.

AIMS has been calling for the Albany model of care to be brought in for all women for many years, as results from research on continuity of midwifery care show excellent outcomes and this way of working is preferred by both by mothers and midwives when they have experienced it working successfully.

This practice was closed in 2009 by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after safety concerns were raised. Mothers were left bereft without their midwives, and the midwives were equally distressed at being forced to stop supporting the women booked with them. There were several big demonstrations against the closure, led by the ‘Albany Mums’ and supported by AIMS. The longest practising midwife, Becky Reed was initially suspended and then referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council but, after a three year investigation, was completely exonerated.

The Albany Midwifery Practice provided care in exactly the way successive Government policy has strongly recommended since 1993. The research which has just been published lends even more weight to the huge benefits of this model of care – consistently more health and social benefits and less damage to women and babies, no matter what their circumstances. We want Albanys everywhere, for ALL women.”

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