Last year a team of senior midwives from Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) took part in a pioneering visit to India to share their maternity expertise with professionals across the country.
Kate Stringer, consultant midwife, Debbie Hubbard, birth choices specialist midwife, Emma Jacobs, homebirth midwife, and Sophie Bone, integrated midwife at SASH all embarked on a two week visit to the country as part of a wider six-month support programme.
The visit, which was a result of connections Kate had built while living and working in India between 2017 and 2020, was supported by the Global Health Partnership, who focus on strengthening health systems and services in England and across the world through international exchanges, and the Fernandez Foundation, a non-profit organisation that ensures safe, sensitive and dignified birthing.
Today on International Day of the Midwife – which this year will focus on working conditions and improved health outcomes for women and families - Kate Stringer and Debbie Hubbard are sharing their experience and learnings.
During the visit the team met with over 30 midwives from six Indian facilities and worked alongside 100 students in large public sector health facilities – delivering around 12,000 babies a year.
Delivering two workshops over two days, including hands-on training in areas such as antenatal exercises, bereavement and neonatal resuscitation, the sessions empowered local midwives and obstetricians to advocate for expectant mothers, strengthen their teamwork and build confidence for difficult conversations with both parents-to-be and colleagues.
The team reflected on the cultural differences between the midwifery profession in the UK and India. While breastfeeding rates are almost 100%, in many settings women birth alone, are limited in pain relief and do not have access to formal postnatal care.
Kate Stringer, consultant midwife at SASH, said:
“Spending time with our new friends and colleagues in India was an enormously rewarding and eye-opening experience. Although we witnessed some difficult situations, we were pleased to be able to identify improvements that will make a big difference to working conditions and enhance the experience and safety of expectant mothers.
“The difference in facilities was at times hard to see, but we all came back with huge appreciation for the services we offer at SASH and across the NHS.
“It was also fantastic to hear Indian colleagues’ reflections, who said that as a result, they felt better prepared in handling emergency situations and managing aggression towards their staff. We were really pleased to be able to share our knowledge and experience with them.”
Debbie Hubbard, birth choices specialist midwife at SASH, said:
“We learnt so much from this extremely fulfilling trip and from the resilient and ambitious midwives and obstetricians we worked with. It was great to get to know the group so well through plenty of games, dancing and enjoying local dishes. We’ve definitely made some lifelong friends!”
After their memorable visit, the team from SASH met again virtually with their Indian counterparts to offer follow up support and discuss the skills they had learned, as well as how they would use them to overcome everyday challenges – including leaderships techniques and teaching methods to help boost student midwives just starting out.
Find out more about our maternity services at SASH.