The NHS England commissioned National Maternity Review is published today with recommendations for how services should change over the next five years. The report sets out a policy framework and key tenets which should be present universally to ensure that safer, personalised maternity services are available to all.
Dr David Richmond, President, RCOG, said:
“We welcome the publication of this important review of maternity services in England.
“The report acknowledges that overall the UK is a safe place for women to give birth, however pressure on maternity services is growing, placing pressure on doctors, midwives, service providers and patients alike. Pregnancies are increasingly complicated due to the rising levels of obesity, along with increasing numbers of first-time older mothers and multiple pregnancies.
“This comprehensive report highlights that doctors and midwives must train and work in multi-professional teams to ensure that women receive a high quality and safe service. Putting patients at the centre of care is paramount, however, safety should always be the principal focus when making decisions around maternity care and childbirth.
“The rapid referral protocols recommended by this report will allow professionals and organisations to work together better, ensuring women are able to access more specialist care when needed. The focus on choice is to be welcomed particularly within the network model envisaged which is crucial.
“Improving the quality of maternity services and reducing harm is a priority. By routinely collecting data on outcomes and mandating standardised perinatal morbidity and mortality reviews, units across the country will be able to benchmark their performance against others’ and aim to reduce variation and improve outcomes. This will lead to world class services which are consistently safe and constantly improving and evolving to meet the needs of women and their families.
“Ensuring adequate staffing for safe provision of obstetric care is vital and we continue to call for further investment as serious shortages of maternity doctors due to rota gaps means many units are dangerously stretched presenting risks of ‘burnout’.
“We recognise that there is no one size fits all approach to maternity care but there is a need to focus on how individual obstetric units can provide the highest quality of care at all times given their geography, size, the complexity of care they provide for women, comorbidity, tiers of staff, training opportunities as well as finances.
“We very much hope the recommendations outlined in this bold plan are heeded to ensure the service we provide to women and their families is fit for the future. Sustainable staffing models and service configurations are key and we shall be producing recommendations in our Safer Women’s Health Care report due to be published later this year.“