The quality of leadership and supervision in maternity care is critical to patient safety.
A variety of research evidence, along with recent major inquiries, all indicate that effective leadership is essential to fostering strong cultures of safety, to building safe and effective teams, and to delivering appropriate resources, training and support for staff. The issue of leadership has an impact on all aspects of patient safety in maternity care.
Leadership and supervision can take many different form in maternity care. Recently, there has been a shift towards models of leadership that are distributed and non-hierarchical, recognising that leadership and supervision are roles that are taken on by staff within all levels of maternity units and healthcare organisations. It is important that leaders of maternity are adaptive, open and listen to and engage with staff to build cultures of safety and trust. Read our discussion paper by Cathy Warwick for more on this.
Research has also examined the characteristics of effective leaders in maternity safety, and particularly in obstetric emergencies and crisis situations. Creating leaders with practical experience and capability on the front line of maternity care is particularly important. In emergency situations, it is important for leaders to be able to establish clear roles and communication within teams.
It is equally important to have senior leaders and boards in organisations that are involved in monitoring and leading safety improvement, and who demonstrate clear commitment to maternity safety. Governance structures, staffing arrangements, resources, training and service design often come within the view of senior organisational leaders, and they have a central role in creating the right context for routinely delivery safe maternity care.