I only see hospital life now from the patients side, so I follow a few “blogs”  posted by the professionals still active in the health service.

One I follow is by a community midwife  who has been in the profession for many years and I can hardly recognise the way the service  is being run now.

I started my training in May 1963. I had enjoyed my year out, but found that I was missing nursing so applied, and was accepted, for the 6 month  training for CMB part one. This would give me the obstetric training I would need if I wanted to practise in some other countries, or, in some hospitals to obtain a sister’s post.

At that time I had no plans to become a practising midwife for which I would have to do another 6 months for CMB part 2. I think there was a scheme for a longer training for those who had not done general training first, but all the midwives and pupils I met were SRNs so I don’t know anything about that scheme.

 There were about 25 of us in the May intake and this was where I met multi-culturism for the first time. The other pupils were from Africa, West Indies, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India and just 5 from the UK!

We started in the schoolroom again and had lectures in great detail on the anatomy of the female pelvis and breast and the foetal skull, the mechanics of labour etc. etc. We also spent every Monday evening having lectures.

During the 6 months we had to observe 10 normal deliveries and do a minimum of 10 deliveries, under the supervision of the midwife assigned as our mentor, and enter them in our case books. The casebooks were sent to the CMB to be assessed at the end of the course. We also had written exams and a viva.

I decided that I liked midwifery, so did part 2.  Passing  this would entitle me to become a certified midwife and practise in my own right.

We did 3 months in hospital (again with more lectures and another 10 deliveries under supervision) and then 3 months on the district.

We were assigned a district midwife each as our mentors for the next three months. Most were working from their own homes but a few of us went to midwives hostels where a group of midwives lived and worked. I went to one in North London which served an area around Archway and The Whittington Hospital. There were four midwives and four pupils. 

In those days there were many more home births, in fact you had to have a reason for a hospital confinement, medical, obstetric or social.

It was very hard work on the district with long hours but I really enjoyed it. We had one clear day off a week and one half day ( it was just my bad luck that this coincided with the evening we had lectures :)) and the rest of the time we were on call 24 hours!

We started the morning work about 8.30 am. We visited all post natal patients for a minimum of 10 days, twice a day for four days and then just once a day if everything was progressing normally. After the post natal visits we did the ante natal  visits to see if the home conditions were suitable for home delivery, or to visit those nearing their due dates to deliver their delivery packs of surgical necessities and to ensure they had everything ready for the delivery.

Once a week we had an ante- natal clinic and once a week post- natal and baby clinic in the afternoons, so we got to know the patients very well and they got to know us, which made it more relaxing  for them when we turned up at 2 am for the labour and birth.

In the evening we did the second visits of the day for the first four days. After that our time was our own, unless of course someone went into labour! Once they were in labour they had either a pupil with them or the midwife and we were both there for the delivery. The GP usually called in , but didn’t stay unless there was a problem. In case of emergency there was a special obstetric ambulance service available within minutes.

We rode around on bicycles and carried our “famous”  black bags on the front and the gas and air machines on the back. Many of the patients went into labour at night, but I never had any reason to fear travelling those streets at night, even the roughest parts, because in those days we never heard about mindless people attacking the emergency services, (the general public would have been more likely to attack anyone molesting us :))

When I heard how the service is now run, and how few  home visits are being proposed,  I could hardly believe it. Of course there are some fortunate women who can have a normal healthy baby and return to normal life very quickly, but there are many who develope  symptoms, be they minor or major, several days later. These can often be dealt with easily if done promptly, but can cause serious problems if left untended.

The physical problems were only one part of post natal visits, we were also able to allay fears, dispel “old wives tales” and establish healthy routines for the babies. 

At the end of the three months we did another written exam and submitted our casebooks of deliveries and a written assessment from our midwife.

After a month of anxious waiting I received the letter informing me that I had satisfied the CMB and was now a State Certified Midwife and entitled to practise in my own right…. providing I fulfilled all the legal requisites and informed all the right authorities!

I think we were lucky to practise at this time when we had so little interference from bureaucrats, no artificial targets and the service was run for the benefit of the patients, not to compete in “market forces”

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