Saturday, 17 March 2007

Is the World of Midwifery becoming like a Supermarket?

Have just read in the Guardian on Wednesday (yes, you must have guessed by now, my favourite newspaper) an article about Lidl – the German supermarket where everything is 70% cheaper. Apparently, there are no stacked shelves, only pallets, pay for trolleys and carrier bags – it has been reported as THE place to shop, not only for its quality but its remarkable prices. But, what about the people who work in Lidl? Staff report leaving in their droves as they cannot stand working back to back shifts. That is finishing at midnight and then having to start at six am the next day – actually this is how I have been working for 20 years and yes it breaks the EU working time directive, but guess what? Yes, that’s right, we have been discussing changing the shift pattern for 20 years and nothing has changed. We also work day and night shifts in the same week and of course we work for anything up to 12 hours without so much as a glass of water, never mind a break or heaven forbid a trip to the toilet!

So what’s this got to do with Lidl? Well, this was only one of the similarities to my work place. The others, the constant pressure Lild staff are under to check out 35-40 items a minute – if they don’t then they face some kind of action from management but they are short staffed anyway to save money so because of the pressure to perform, often mistakes are made and discovered by’ mystery shoppers’, planted to catch unsuspecting staff out.
Midwives too are under constant pressure to see more women, and deliver more babies, (allegedly, payment by results, should mean the money follows the women into the maternity unit, but in reality it doesn’t and is swallowed up by trusts as a whole) and work with less midwives all to save money. Also more paperwork and risk assessment strategies means ticking more boxes to fulfil requirements for insurance purposes – all this takes the midwife away from valuable face to face contact with women and of course, because of the pressure to do more in less time with less resources can equal mistakes, but we are not just talking about supermarket goods – we are talking about women and babies.

The article on Lidl goes on to describe how the constant pressure has led to management becoming totally dehumanised and act inappropriately to situations that need sensitive handling and how the whole work-force works under an atmosphere of suspicion. You know what, this is just how the maternity unit works and in spite of the midwifery managers grand posturing about developing the midwifery profession, the profession still functions from a time gone by when clinicians in the NHS worked in a climate of self sacrifice and fear.

Think I might go and work for Lidl – would feel very at home.

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