Midwifery practice is governed by the framework laid down in the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001. There is a regulating body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which maintains a professional register of practising midwives, publishes the Midwives Rules and Standards (2004) and investigates allegations of professional misconduct.
The Act of Parliament makes provision for the statutory supervision of midwives through Local Supervising Authorities (LSA) for which responsibility is delegated to Health Authorities that are grouped to form regions. These regions are coterminous with the ten Strategic Health Authorities in England, there are two in Wales and 3 in Scotland and 1 in Northern Ireland (4 health boards). In each region, an LSA Midwifery Officer (LSAMO) is appointed to whom every midwife must notify intention to practise midwifery each year.
The purpose of supervision is to maintain the highest standards of care for mothers and babies through evidence based practice. The LSA appoints supervisors at a local level to provide professional leadership in facilitating up-to-date, confident and competent practitioners in a culture of lifelong learning. The LSA maintains a database of supervisors and midwives and monitors effectiveness of the function through regular audit of standards. Critical incidents are fully investigated and lessons learned applied to practice. Each LSA produces an annual report which must be signed by the chief executive and submitted to the NMC by the end of September. These reports are usually available from the SHA website.
Local supervisors are appointed at an ideal ratio of one per 15 midwives and are theoretically independent of the management structure in units, a contact supervisor is appointed for each trust and these can be contacted through the trust direct or via the LSA Midwifery Officer. A list of names and contact details is held on the Nursing and Midwifery Council website.