'Honesty box system' for choice of midwife criticised

Pregnant women are being asked to rely on an "honesty box system" when choosing their midwife, says a maternity campaigner.

Action to Improve Maternity founder Jenn Hooper has called for the New Zealand Midwifery Council to come into line with dentistry and medicine by including past names on its online register.

Hooper was contacted by several concerned women in Northland after an article was published about former Blenheim midwife Natasha Thomson whose service failings were detailed in a Human Rights Review Tribunal decision.

Although the New Zealand Midwifery Council stated the midwife was continuing to practise in Northland, Thomson's name did not show up when entered into the online register because she was practising under the name Natasha Hawtin.

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Hooper said including all names on the New Zealand Midwifery Council register would help boost transparency.

"We should be giving women and their families the ability to make fully informed decisions."

Although most women changed their name for legitimate reasons, for example when they married, there was still the perception that the loophole within the system could be used to hide, Hooper said.

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"The system shouldn't allow midwives to change their name without a record of their previous name."

"It's a no-brainer. Your right to full information isn't just a whim - it's a right."

New Zealand Midwifery Council chief executive officer Sharron Cole confirmed the former Blenheim midwife at the centre of the Human Rights Review Tribunal Decision had practised under both the names Natasha Hawtin and Natasha Thomson.

She was unable for privacy reasons to say when or why the midwife had changed her name.

The council did not list past names, or past conditions on practising certificates. Cole said that was consistent with the principles of the Clean Slate Act.

Women researching a midwife could enter names into Google or ask potential midwives about their past history, Cole said.

Midwives were "ethically and professionally" obliged to answer those questions.

But Hooper said a system that relied on women asking questions of their midwife was "flawed".

"It's an honesty box system and the honesty box system only works with honest people. You shouldn't have to rely on that to choose your health practitioner."

The New Zealand Midwifery Council should be providing checks and balances.

 - The Marlborough Express

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