A large-scale review of maternity services, announced in March by Chief Executive of NHS England Simon Stevens, is now underway and a report is expected by the end of the year.
The review was sparked, at least in part, by the shocking revelations regarding Furness General Hospital, part of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. Failings at the maternity unit lead to the avoidable deaths of mothers and babies.
Mr Stevens hopes the review will reveal how services should develop to meet the ever-evolving needs of women and babies, with members of the public invited to give their views on how NHS maternity services should evolve.
Advancements in maternity care, changes to the demographic of women having babies and preferences of where women want to give birth will all be taken into consideration as part of the review.
Increased Patient Choice
The review is not focused solely on the issues above, as it also seeks to improve the safety and efficiency of maternity services so that the NHS can support and enable women to make safe choices regarding their maternity care.
Another aim of the review is to support NHS staff, including assisting midwives to provide more responsive care. The terms of reference for the review team say that research from the Women’s Institute and the National Childbirth Trust suggests that despite only 25% of women wanting to give birth in a hospital obstetric unit, over 85% of women do so.
The NHS review emphasises patient choice, especially following recent reports of temporary maternity unit shutdowns. One survey revealed that 4 out of 10 maternity units were forced to close last year, effectively limiting choices for women in areas where this happens.
A member of the review team, Professor Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, suggests that it might be difficult to achieve the aims of the review due to “harsh realities” and that anecdotes from midwives around the country revealed that they struggle to get through the day as things currently are.
Increased expectations of care such as continuity of carer, may place additional pressure on midwives and health care professionals, but it is hoped that providing extra support to maternity unit staff will enable the review and resulting report to make a real difference to the standards of maternity care bring delivered across the country.
Have Your Say
The review is not only interested in the views of midwives and other healthcare professionals. Members of the public are encouraged to share their thoughts on NHS maternity services via regional drop-in events, or anonymously online via the NHS Maternity Review website.
Professor Warwick has commented that, in all discussions she’s had during the review, there is a strong feeling that maternity care “must be woman-centred, personalised, physically and emotionally safe and facilitate a trusting relationship between women, their families and professionals.”
We hope that the review leads to an improvement in maternity services, and enables all expectant mothers to receive good quality maternity care, and to have a say about the way in which it is provided.
Lauren Tully is a Clinical Negligence Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
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