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Regulation of unregistered birth workers in Australia: Homebirth and public safety

McWhirter, R ORCID: 0000-0002-9409-8074 2017 , 'Regulation of unregistered birth workers in Australia: Homebirth and public safety' , Women and Birth , pp. 1-9 , doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.06.023.

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Abstract

Background: Australian midwives are regulated under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Unregistered birth workers may provide midwifery services at homebirths without any regulatory oversight. To address this issue, several states have passed legislation enabling prohibition orders to be made (negative licensing) against unregistered health practitioners who fail to comply with a statutory code of conduct developed for those not covered by the National Scheme.Aim: To explore the consequences for the availability of birth choices for women that arise from the introduction of negative licensing.Discussion: An analysis of the regulatory framework and recent cases of unregistered birth workers attending homebirths reveals problems with equitable access to homebirth support, arising from issues with professional indemnity insurance, geography, and poor integration with hospitals and the wider healthcare system. These problems contribute to women choosing to employ the services of unregistered birth workers.Conclusion: Negative licensing provides a useful additional tool for improving the safety of homebirths for mothers and babies, but it does not address the issues leading expectant parents to choose an unregistered birth worker to attend their births, and may contribute to an increase in high-risk behaviours, such as freebirthing.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:McWhirter, R
Keywords: home birth, midwifery, regulation of health professions, freebirth, unregistered birth workers
Journal or Publication Title: Women and Birth
Publisher: Elsevier BV
ISSN: 1871-5192
DOI / ID Number: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.06.023
Copyright Information:

© 2017 Australian College of Midwives. Published by Elsevier

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