When and why did you first get involved with NCT?
I first became involved with the NCT in the autumn of 1968. I had read about the NCT in London in the Sunday newspapers but was unaware that there was a branch in Edinburgh. I already had two sons, John, born in 1965 after a long and difficult labour, which I felt positively about thanks to a very supportive obstetrician, and Peter, born 1967. I joined and became a member of a group of likeminded parents.
I went on to have two more sons, Thomas born 1971 and Matthew in 1973. I breastfed all my sons, in a period when breastfeeding was not the norm and was very poorly supported in Scotland. I became an NCT breastfeeding ‘friend’ and Breastfeeding Counsellor, after attending the first training weekend held outside London and the Southeast of England. I trained and qualified as an antenatal teacher in a group of eight trainees, who took part in the first structured training course over several months in the NCT. I served as a Breastfeeding Workshop tutor for ten years from 1975 to 1985.
When and how did you get involved with NCT research and/ or maternity services activity?
Once my family had flown the nest and I was no longer caring for my mother, I looked to increasing my involvement with the NCT. I am a trained researcher in geology, by background, and having become aware of the need for research based information underpinning all the NCT does, I became a research networker (user rep) in 1993. Living in Scotland, where before devolution maternity services were developed and managed by the Home and Health Department of the Scottish Office, not the Department of Health, I rapidly became involved in Maternity Services, becoming the Joint Breastfeeding Services Representative of the Edinburgh, East and Midlothian MSLC in 1993. This committee has evolved into the Lothian MSLC of which I am still a lay member.
What have you learnt from the different projects you have been involved with?
I became the NCT Research Networkers’ Trustee in 1998 and served as a trustee until 2004. I was a member of Policy, Research and Campaigns Committee and joint chair of both Research Networkers’ and Maternity Services Representatives’ Panel.. The NCT was lobbying for a Maternity Services Framework in England and together with the Scottish Regional Team we lobbied the new Scottish Parliament for an equivalent in Scotland. I was the NCT representative on the team which wrote A Framework for Maternity Services in Scotland 2002.This led to me serving on a number of other groups including Expert Advisory Group on Caesarean Section in Scotland, Clinical Standards for Maternity Services in Scotland, Scottish Woman-Held Maternity Record, Maternal History Taking;- Best Practice Statement, Keeping Childbirth Natural and Dynamic and collaborating with Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). I attended Scottish Programme for Clinical Effectiveness in Reproductive Health (SPCERH) Conferences and brought their reports and the Scottish Confidential Audit of Severe Maternal Morbidity (SCASMM) reports to the attention of the NCT.
At a UK level, I have contributed to user comments on Cochrane Collaboration Pregnancy and Childbirth Reviews, internal NCT groups commenting on draft NICE guidelines, UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) and UK Near Miss Maternity Surveillance System (UKNeS) User Advisory Group.
I have learnt in all these projects to communicate the users’ point of view, use research based evidence, to be not only passionate but pragmatic, work towards a consensus, being aware when compromise is needed whilst simultaneously being aware of where ‘the line must be drawn’.
I have gained large networks of friends amongst other users, user representatives and professionals within maternity services.
How do you feel they have contributed to improving care for parents and families?
I am currently involved in Lothian with the MSLC, Maternity Programme Board, Women’s Clinical Governance and Risk Management Group, Maternity Quality Improvement Team, Maternity Guidelines Group, Intrapartum Group and Neonatal Care Collaborative.
In all the groups and projects, I have been involved with over the last 25 years, I have contributed to more evidence based, women-centred, family-centred and baby-centred maternity services where families are treated more respectfully from their inception as a family. There is still much work to be done though the direction of travel is now fairly well established.
What would you say to anyone who is feeling nervous about becoming a user rep?
Have a go! Your experiences will make a valid contribution. Do not be afraid to ask for help and support from others both within and without the NCT.