Friday, 13 March 2015

Guest Blog by Jo Murphy Lawless: National Healthcare Charter for Maternity Care - "An 'opportunity to contribute' ?????

National Healthcare Charter for Maternity Care -  "An 'opportunity to contribute' ?????

 'The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and the HSE are running workshops on gender and health this month, in Letterkenny (March 4th), Waterford (March 11th) and Mullingar (March 20th). Participants at the workshops will have an opportunity to contribute to the draft HSE National Healthcare Charter for Maternity Care. ' Irish Times, 2 March, 2015

Sounds useful doesn't  it?

The reality is this:

 1. We have had a so-called 'Patients Charter' in this godforsaken jurisdiction since 1992, published then by the Department of Health, and it made not a jot of difference to the long-suffering Irish public (one of the clauses in that original 1992 Charter is that everyone  is entitled to a specified individual appointment time in all outpatients  sections of all our hospitals.; so that was a great success as a policy, wasn't it? Ask women in our antenatal clinics around the conutry, let alone women in breast clinics and so on how long they wait in cattle mart conditions?

 2. The whole notion of 'patients  charters' was a very suspect emollient to broken health services from the late 1980s in the UK, when the first steps were taken in the NHS and elsewhere  to privatise. Its focus was  the individual  as a 'consumer' concerned only with her own needs and not with the needs of the community as a whole. They were designed to limit patient dissatisfaction to a menu of complaints and not to investigating how and why

 3. That 1992 Department of Health Charter here drew on what was already a politically bankrupt approach to the problems of health services.

 4. What women wanted for their maternity services was thoroughly  canvassed in the run up to the publication of the 1997 A Plan for Women's Health; workshops were held round  the country. to no avail. Nothing changed.  Women's voices in that kind of empty exercise decorated with the word' consultation'   were all too readily sidestepped.

 5. And the HSE is reviving this tattered and useless set of approaches now?

 And the NWCI is signing up to this paper exercise??

Such disheartening news for International Women's Day, given all we have endured of scandals which have cost women their lives, their babies’ lives, and families’ well-being  since Tania McCabe’s tragic death in 2007.

We need much tougher and realistic engagements, at the very least the setting up of a maternity services committee, integrated directly into local policymaking and chaired by women who have used our maternity  services. One such is now in place in Saolta  University Healthcare Group in the west, where policies can be interrogated by women users of the maternity services, using a solid evidence base, and then getting those policies reformed, monitoring that reform process.

The scope needs to be much wider.  Human rights in patients care is a far more appropriate frame of reference  - see

 Jo Murphy-Lawless, TCD, 8 March 2015,

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