District Nurses and the Central Midwives Board

A recent addition of the personal collection of Mary Doyle, Nurse Dundon McGuane, District Nurse of Brockworth, led to interesting questions regarding ownership of case registers, the history of district nurses, the Central Midwives Board and trends in pregnancy care.  It can be found on our Gloucestershire Archives online catalogue under D14737.  It’s a small collection, but covers a fascinating time in British and Irish medical and social history.

To establish context, we begin in 1902, with the passing of the 1902 Midwives Act, which was designed to regulate the practice of midwifery.  It ordered that midwives be certified practitioners and established penalties for those without certification.  The exception to this was those giving assistance in emergencies.  The act established the Central Midwives Board, which continued to exist until 1983, whereupon updated legislation and multiple mergers with other nursing organisations formed the current Nursing and Midwifery Council.  The Central Midwives Board was responsible for the regulation of the certification and examination of midwives, admission to the Roll of Midwives and annual publication of the Roll, along with regulating the practices of the midwives and the appointment of examiners.  Training would take at least three months, whereupon certified midwives were encouraged to keep case registers of their attended deliveries. These registers passed from district nurse to district nurse, each successor picking up where the last left off, often hopping across the country during her working life.

Innocuous covers, but holds information on: the name and address of the patient, her age, date of booking, and expected date of delivery; the name of the doctor, when they were booked, if they were called in case of an emergency and if they were present at the delivery; the previous number of children and miscarriages the patient has had; any antenatal care given, the date and time of the midwife’s arrival/patient’s admission; the date and hour of the baby’s delivery; the weight, sex and health of the infant; the date of the last visit/discharge; the condition of the mother after giving birth; along with any drugs given during labour and finally any additional remarks.  It’s a lot of information for such small books, and obvious why the closure periods are necessary!

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