Background. Contemporary midwifery practice has its own particular pressures upon, and requirements of newly qualified
practitioners. The NMC recommends that the focus of pre-registration programmes of midwifery must be the skills and
attitudes needed to support and promote normal birth (NMC 2007). In relation to the skills of caring for women at high risk
of complications, the NMC states that ‘skills required for taking on the role of lead carer for women with complex medical
and or obstetric needs is developmental, and competence is to be achieved after initial registration’ (NMC 2009:19). It is
therefore likely that the midwife at the point of qualification will not be fully conversant with the range of skills associated
with the care of women with complex needs, and some structured programme is required (DH 2008).
Aim. A midwifery programme of preceptorship was implemented in 2004 in one NHS Foundation Trust in North West
England and a structured evaluation was undertaken, commencing June 2009, to identify strengths and weaknesses to further
develop the programme.
Method. Focus groups and interviews were used to collect data from one cohort of six newly qualified midwives (NQMs),
six preceptors and four midwifery managers over an eighteen month period from June 2009 to December 2010. Data were
collected on participants’ perceptions of strengths and weaknesses in the programme with regard to curriculum content,
support and professional development. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Three overarching themes were identified
from the data: developing competence and confidence, support, and organisational constraints. The Head of Midwifery gave
permission for the study to be conducted and the proposal received ethical approval from the University ethics committee.
Results. The structured preceptorship programme was viewed as helpful in developing the NQM’s confidence and competence.
The relationships built up during this time were considered to be valuable and mutually beneficial. Organisational constraints
at times made achieving the aims of the programme more difficult and necessitated a flexible, individualised approach.
Implications. The evaluation supports the evidence for implementation of a personalised, structured, and equitable approach
to UK midwifery preceptorship, accompanied by further research on its effects on the care of women and retention of staff.