Faculty of Health and Social Care Guest Lecture

14th Dec 2016, 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Faculty of Health, Social Care and Medicine

global midwife

Together Everyone Achieves More – Gillian Smith, Director, Royal College of Midwives Scotland

Within the midwifery and medical profession it is tragic that we are still witnessing bullying and poor workplace behaviours in the NHS. The RCM and RCOG have been discussing this since the early 2000’s as midwifery and obstetrics feature at the top of GMC reporting and NHS surveys. It was obvious we had come to a point where we needed to do something about this worrying trend and show leadership and do it before the next set of survey results. Both royal colleges through their joint working are optimistic that this juggernaut of poor workplace behaviour can be turned around in a generation if we all work together.

It is a sad fact that workplace bullying in the UK is on the rise and is more common in the public sector than can be imagined with 25% of the biggest employer in Europe experiencing these poor behaviours. Yet many employees remain afraid to speak up. (Aces 2015). That must change and it is time to bring it out from under the table.

Much has been published about bullying including “Why do Midwives Leave” which reported on horizontal violence from managers and midwives (Ball, Curtis and Kirkham 2002). It was and remains a significant issue and staff face it on a regular basis resulting in consequences for them   in terms of health and welfare and for the NHS in terms of cost and reputation (Hollins and Martin 2010).

Described as “The silent epidemic of the NHS” bullying affects a quarter of staff in the largest employer in Europe (Kline 2013).

The headlines in a 2015 Guardian on-line article shocked the midwifery profession. A blog by a midwife said “I loved being a midwife but bullying, stress and fear made me resign”. (Guardian on line).

The effect that bullying has had on patients in the NHS was highlighted repeatedly at Mid Staffordshire hospital enquiry. Sir Robert   Frances reported bullying to be “a key driver of the toxic culture at Mid Staffordshire. “(Frances 2013).

However in the recommendations there was no reference to how this behaviour should be addressed. Did we miss the opportunity to act responsibly and do something about this behaviour?

The other clear example for us of poor workplace behaviour and disharmony was reported in the Kirkup report. The undermining behaviour and dysfunctional team working had devastating consequences for women receiving maternity care at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay culminating in poor outcomes for both mothers and babies. (Kirkup 2015)

My talk will look at some of these examples and highlight some of the work the RCM and RCOG are doing around this. We must break the silence.



Gillian Smith, Director, Royal College of Midwives Scotland


After completing her nurse training in Glasgow Gillian trained as a midwife in Ninewells in Dundee qualifying in 1978. She then practiced as a midwife in Rutherglen Maternity Hospital Glasgow and spent three years in the Sultanate of Oman, on secondment from Greater Glasgow Health Board.  This was a very exciting time as she was part of a team, there to help improve the maternity services.  During this time she delivered a number of babies some by breech but considers one of her most exciting experiences delivering triplets vaginally. She was the first person ever to do ultrasound on pregnant women in the Dhofar region in the south of Oman.

She has worked with the RCM in Scotland since 1995 as a National Officer and since April 2008 as Director. She has extensive experience of representing members in different settings. Gillian completed an MSc in Industrial Relations from Stirling University and sits on the Employment Appeals Tribunal in UK having been appointed to that in 2003.

She is on the editorial board of the British Journal of Midwifery and the FGM National Clinical Group. Along with her colleague Dr Jacque Gerrard Director for the RCM in England she leads for the RCM on their joint work with the RCOG on undermining and bullying in maternity services

She is a trustee of the Smalls for All charity and became one of the Patron’s of the SiMBA charity in January 2016.

Married in 2006 she inherited a ready made family complete with grand-daughter.

Gillian was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2014 for services to midwifery and partnership in Scotland. She also received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the West of Scotland in November 2014.