Improving equity, diversity and inclusion in our maternity and neonatal workforce

Caroline Finch

In this blog, Caroline Finch, Programme Manager for the Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme talks about the work happening in Greater Manchester to increase the number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds working in maternity and neonatal services to ensure the workforce is representative of our population.

I am Programme Development Lead for the Maternity and Neonatal Patient Safety Improvement Programme at Health Innovation Manchester. I work with maternity and neonatal providers across Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire to look at quality improvement initiatives to improve safety and outcomes.

England’s 15 Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs) play an essential role in identifying and spreading safer care initiatives from within the NHS and industry, ensuring these are shared and implemented throughout the health and care system.

As a key member of the Local Maternity and Neonatal System I am part of the group tasked with implementing the actions within the Greater Manchester Equity and Equality Action Plan.

I commenced my NHS career in 1987 as a student nurse at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and on qualification I worked within the fields of medicine and cardiology.

After having my first child and seeing first-hand what the role of the midwife I felt that I could make a difference to women, birthing people, babies and families and thus started my midwifery journey at Salford University in 1997.

In 2012 I commenced my Master of Science in Advanced Practice (Health and Social Care) and was one of a team of five advanced midwifery practitioners working at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

I left clinical practice in 2021 and worked for a short period as the only ethnic minority midwifery lecturer at Manchester University.

I became involved with the Equity and Equality action group in March 2022 as a midwife with over 30 years of ‘lived experience’.

I am passionate about improving equity, diversity and inclusion in our workforce, improving workplace experiences and the related reduction in avoidable health inequalities. I was tasked at looking at the actions for the Workforce Race Equality Standard Workforce Indicators.

My first action was to look at the percentage of staff in each of the Agenda for Change (AfC) Bands 1-9 from an ethnic minority background compared to White staff in maternity and neonatal services in Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire. The results only confirmed what I already expected – that our workforce does not reflect the diversity of our population, but to see it on paper made me feel upset, angry, despondent, and frightened for the future of our ethnic minority workforce.

I am therefore pleased that within the Greater Manchester Equity and Equality Action Plan we’ve proposed a number of actions to address the situation. One of our ten high impact interventions is to make sure our ‘staff from ethnic minority background are representative of our local populations and will have the same opportunities and experiences as others’.

Our overall aim is to increase the number of staff coming into the profession by improving career progression, retention and for our workforce to represent the birthing people and families that we care for.

One way we will do this is by offering mentorship and support to student midwives from ethnic minority backgrounds to help them through their studies and reduce the number of leavers during the training. I am pleased to say that we are currently finalising a project to do just that with our universities in Greater Manchester and some of our voluntary members.

I am now a member of the Equity and Equality Action Plan Steering Group that is currently meeting once a month to enable and support colleagues to implement the plan. As well as focusing on our staff we are determined as a group to continue close collaboration with our service users and for this to be a key theme throughout the implementation.

Some of our action leads are using the voices of different communities to shape our maternity services in Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire; we are currently planning focus groups with women and people from Black and Asian background who have used maternity services recently to see what obstacles they faced when trying to book in with a midwife for maternity care.  We are hoping that what they tell us will help us to make our services accessible to all as early as possible – ideally by 10 weeks of pregnancy.  We know this early contact is crucial in order to provide good antenatal care and see better outcomes for all the family.

We will continue to support implementation of the Equity and Equality action plan, connecting people together, supporting and reporting progress to the Greater Manchester Maternity Programme Board and we are proud to do so.

Now is the time for change – ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek’, Barack Obama

For more information click here to visit the NHS England web page or email

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