Canterbury Christ Church University midwifery course suddenly suspended due to quality issues
Dozens of students have suddenly been told they cannot start midwifery courses this month after concerns were raised about its quality, KentOnline can reveal.
Canterbury Christ Church University’s three-year bachelor’s degree course has been deemed insufficient in crucial areas by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which acts as a regulator.
The “unexpected and heartbreaking” decision is not only a blow for the 70 future trainees, but also for midwifery services where union bosses report a “shocking shortage” of staff.
The regulator stepped in after receiving alarming comments from existing students, who reported a lack of supervision – with interns being left with patients for entire shifts.
The NMC also found that students did not feel supported enough to raise their concerns, or listened to when they did.
He concluded that the course had failed to meet its new standards in a number of areas, prompting him to discontinue training just weeks before the start of term.
The university, which has campuses in Canterbury and Medway, has long offered a maternity program, with its students training at hospitals in East Kent, Maidstone and Medway.
“[Students] describe a number of examples of how they often work unsupervised…”
The NMC’s report on the course, which is posted on its website, says: “Students tell us they don’t always work with practice supervisors.
“They describe a number of examples of how they often work unsupervised and there are not enough staff to support them and told by staff in practice that this is normal.
“Students tell us that it is normal for them to work as a team, including, for example, caring for women for a full shift without the proper supervision of a midwife.
“They don’t always feel supported to report these concerns and find that if they do, they aren’t always listened to by practice or academic staff.”
The board says it knows the setback will be “unexpected and distressing” for the 70 prospective students, but it had no choice.
A spokesman for the university said there had been “unavoidable delays” at the institution in getting her midwifery degree approved in time for next month.
He informed candidates on July 11 of the setback, adding: ‘We understand the distress this has caused and are working closely with candidates to provide the support needed for their personal circumstances.’
He says the university is now working urgently with its NHS partners to “resolve the issues” identified by the NMC to meet the high standards required.
“We plan to complete this process to allow our cohort of students to start with a delayed date of April 2023,” he added.
He says the vast majority of candidates have postponed their application and will be looking to join the course in April. Others have chosen to start in September 2023, change health programs or move to another provider.
“We’ve had direct conversations with candidates before and their circumstances vary widely, so we take an approach that is focused on each person’s needs and circumstances,” he said.
“We are working hard to find positive outcomes for those affected and are making progress towards this, working with Health Education England and our partner NHS trusts to secure temporary employment until they take up a place with us.
“These conversations are proving fruitful and constructive.”
“There are simply not enough midwives”
The suspension of the course comes amid a shortage of midwives and the concerns of already stressed staff struggling to cope with supervising a raw recruit while caring for several patients in labour.
Former midwife Piroska Cavell graduated from university in 2010 but left the profession nine years later for fear of “burning out” from stress and workload.
The 55-year-old, who now runs a beauty clinic in Whitstable, says maternity wards are already overcrowded and she’s not surprised midwives are struggling.
“It’s quite shocking and sad that this course has been postponed,” she said.
“Midwives obviously want to help but are already under enormous pressure as there are simply not enough of them. Having to supervise and be responsible for a student only adds to that.
“These students may have gone through the theory in class, but it can be quite daunting for them in the service itself.
“And if there are any complications and something goes wrong, it’s up to the midwife who could lose her record.”
The request must be resubmitted
The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Executive Director of Professional Practice, Professor Geraldine Walters, said: “All midwifery programs must go through our quality assurance process, to ensure that students around the world acquire the knowledge and skills they need to join our registry at the end of their journey.
“Canterbury Christ Church University has been the latest educational institution to seek endorsement of its midwifery program against our new teaching standards.
“Unfortunately, our quality assurance process has highlighted some concerns, and the late deadline means he cannot start his program in September.
“We know that this will be unexpected and painful for future students of the university course.
“We have worked with the university and Health Education England to explore all possible options. The only viable solution is for the university to address the concerns of our quality assurance visitors and resubmit their program for approval, aiming for a start delayed to April 2023.”
The setback could now impact the number of qualified midwives hospital trusts expect in three years.
It also comes as top health officials warn of a “shocking shortage” of midwives that could put pregnant women at risk.
“We know that it will be unexpected and painful for future students of the university course”
The Royal College of Midwives warned late last year of a maternity staff crisis, with midwives driven out by the pressures of understaffing and fears they could not provide care safely.
Becky Collins, Director of Maternity and Newborn Services at NHS Kent and Medway, said: “We are committed to providing high quality maternity services in our hospitals and supporting the education of student midwives.
“Kent and Medway midwives continue to work hard to provide women with the best possible care and experience. We support the university and local trusts to ensure they are ready for accreditation in April 2023 when the university resubmits its program for approval.