'˜I am leaving a good legacy'
She has spent the past six years transforming maternity services at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
And now Gill Walton will use her knowledge and experience to support midwives and shape services across the UK.
Gill, the director of midwifery and maternity services at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, is leaving Portsmouth to start her new role as chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives.
The college is a union for midwives and represents staff working in the UK. It is their voice on topics from pay and changes to clinical practice and equality.
Gill said she is looking forward to her new role and is proud of what she is leaving behind at QA Hospital, in Cosham.
She says: ‘This has been one of the best jobs I have ever had.
‘I have loved working here and the staff are amazing.
‘They deliver really good care for women and we have good outcomes and satisfaction for women giving birth within the trust.
‘What I’m proud of is our nurture programme which looks at nurturing women and families.
‘For me, it is important we speak about families and not just the mums.
‘But the programme is also about nurturing the development of staff, ideas and initiatives.
‘The project as a whole has been the thing that I am most proud of.’
Gill joined Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust at a time when its maternity services were being criticised by the public.
There were fears services were being lost and would not be available in rural areas.
But six years later, the patient satisfaction is high and health watchdog the Care Quality Commission rated the maternity ward as ‘Good’ overall with aspects of the service rated ‘Outstanding’.
And Gill said this is something she and the team are pleased with.
‘Our patients love us and the CQC liked our service and what we were doing,’ she adds.
‘The NHS is complicated and sometimes you may go down the wrong track. But the work we are doing here is the right track.
‘I’m leaving a good legacy of people who are doing the right thing.
‘We don’t have problems recruiting, people like working here and we have got a good model of care.
‘I’m proud of the staff and the services. I’ll be telling people to come and visit QA to see how they work.
‘The women of this area are lucky to have these services.’
One of the things Gill said was important for the maternity service was its innovation.
She wanted staff to be part of a number of schemes to help enhance the service and ensure patients had safe care.
Gill says: ‘We are quite innovative with the schemes we bring in and the way we work.
‘We have to think about what we can do to prevent something that could happen and change the way we work.
‘I am really proud of the My Birthplace scheme, which gives women information on where to have their baby.
‘That is available across the whole of Wessex and has been recognised nationally.
‘I’m always looking at the future and think what can we do to stop these things happened in a few years time.
‘Over the years, one of the biggest changes I have noticed is the growing number of women who need quite complicated care.
‘Some of it is older mums and an increase in obesity, which leads to an increase in diabetes.
‘There is also an issue with what is expected of mums and the pressures they sometimes face during and after labour.
‘But unlike the rest of the NHS, we are quite lucky that we don’t have a recruitment problem for midwives.
‘We use our maternity support workers in a really good way, which helps and is brilliant.
‘They deliver quite a lot of the post-natal care like help with breastfeeding or mums with anxieties.
‘Quite a few services look at how we provide care.’
Gill will start her new role next month and will succeed Cathy Warwick.
She adds: ‘I’m looking forward to my new role and it is a really good time to be going into it.
‘There is so much changing in maternity services across the UK and I will definitely use my experiences particularly from here to support midwives and maternity support workers to embrace and adapt to changes.
‘They need support to do that because maternity services are complex and busy.
‘The Royal College of Midwives is already in a good place to influence the national agenda and politicians.
‘All the things that will potentially impact the workforce is my business now and I will be giving that my full attention.
‘Midwives do worry about pay but they worry more about not being able to give quality care to women.
‘The shortages and the quality of care will worry midwives and managers like me.
‘It is about being able to provide the right care for women. I am here to make sure women get safe care and a good experience.’
And on the future of maternity services Gill said organisations will have to work closer together rather than compete for women.
‘I definitely think the future will be local maternity systems following the STP areas so there will be 44 across the country,’ she says.
‘I think that is better for women as it will be less of a lottery on what services are available depending on where you live. At the moment, women shop around and that shouldn’t be happening. We should be doing and offering the shame thing as other hospitals because it is safer.
‘We are all learning from each other now whereas before we would be more in competition. We like working together and learning from each other. I do think the future is good.’