The Nursing and Midwifery Council has withdrawn approval for a midwifery programme in Kent following ‘serious concerns’ with its delivery.
The move, which is a first for the regulator, will mean that as of 10 May completing the midwifery course at Canterbury Christ Church University will no longer lead to registration as a midwife in the UK.
A spokesperson for the university said the decision had ‘devastating consequences’ for both its student midwives and the regional midwifery workforce in the area.
But Sam Foster, executive director of professional practice at the NMC, said it had been taken ‘in the best interests of women, babies, and families’.
The situation began in January 2020 when the NMC started working with the university to address its concerns around the education of its midwifery students.
Initially, there had been concerns about the practice learning environment for midwives on placement at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust – which has also been at the centre of safety concerns and failings within its maternity services.
Wider concerns then arose around the university’s management of the programme and partnership working with its practice learning partners.
Following a series of ongoing concerns, in February 2023 the nursing regulator informed the university of its initial decision to withdraw approval.
The university was given a month to ‘provide assurances’ but having reviewed its submission, the NMC confirmed it was pressing ahead with stripping the programme of its approval.
In an online statement, the NMC acknowledged ‘some progress has been made since February’, but added that it was ‘not assured’ the programme was ‘meeting the required NMC standards’.
‘We’re concerned that the university, in partnership with the NHS trusts that provide placements for its students, is not equipping midwifery students to meet our requirements,’ the statement added.
‘In particular we are concerned about students not gaining the skills and expertise to deliver safe, effective and kind care when they join our register.’
Meanwhile, Ms Foster added: ‘After very careful consideration, and in the best interests of women, babies, and families, we’ve made a final decision to withdraw approval of the midwifery programme at Canterbury Christ Church University.
‘We understand this is a significant decision which will have a huge impact on the students affected and the local workforce.
‘However, as the UK’s midwifery regulator, our role is to protect the public and uphold the high standards of midwifery practice that women and families have the right to expect.’
She added: ‘Our full attention now turns to working with the university and NHS England on plans to support the affected students to continue their education at another institution.’
The NMC said the university was not prohibited from seeking fresh approval of a programme against its standards in the future.
A statement from Canterbury Christ Church University said its ‘absolute priority is the wellbeing of our students and staff, and ensuring that our students can continue to complete their studies and begin their future careers, to be the high quality, much needed midwives that this region needs’.
‘We will work with our staff, students and NHS partners to achieve this,’ it added.
The statement continued: ‘Despite the NMC recognising the significant improvements undertaken by the university and its practice partners, and noting the time needed to implement the changes, we are disappointed that they have not afforded the university the opportunity to establish and embed the changes across different practice settings.
‘The university remains committed to providing education and training for the widest range of health and social care professions.’