The Royal College of Midwives has signed the first formal trade union recognition agreement outside the NHS with One-to-One Midwives, a Wirral-based private midwife company contracted to provide maternity care for NHS Wirral.

The signing ceremony was held yesterday at noon in NHS Wirral's Birkenhead Medical Building.

NHS Wirral became the first PCT in England in November 2011 to commission a company to provide maternity care as an "Any Qualified Provider (AQP)". This followed a pilot scheme in the area, involving 200 women.

When a trade union and an employer agree to negotiate about employment terms and conditions, the employer is said to 'recognise' the trade union. A recognised trade union represents workers in negotiations with their employer, usually based on employees' terms and conditions.

General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Royal College of Midwives Cathy Warwick said: "We are pleased to be signing our first formal recognition agreement with a private provider. This is an important moment for us. The shift in plurality of provider in the NHS means that the RCM must remain relevant to its members working in new circumstances."

Women who choose the One to One service are provided with a midwife to see them through antenatal care, the birth and postnatal care.

One to One (North West) Limited Clinical Director Joanne Parkington said: "It is very exciting to be working in partnership with the RCM, and take midwifery forward into the next stage of the NHS. We recognise that this agreement will go a long way to support One to One midwives to deal with the challenges that we face in the changing NHS landscape."

One to One currently employs 28 people, including 20 midwives, and said it is in talks with other NHS Trusts around England and Wales about providing some of their maternity services.

Rosemary Curtis, lead commissioner for Maternity and Children at NHS Wirrall also attended the signing ceremony.

Posted by Penny Hosie