The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) welcomes the publication of the Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View and in particular its support for a more integrated health and social care system, recognising the need for ongoing innovation to ensure a sustainable NHS for future generations. We are encouraged to see that the update recognises the contribution and dedication of hard working NHS staff and that all trusts are working to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees.
The Government has identified mental health as a national priority and the RCOG applauds the key role that maternal mental health plays in this programme. It is important that this focus is accompanied by appropriate funding, to ensure that progress is sustained and that the commitment to timely access to specialist and appropriate mental health care during pregnancy and the postnatal period continues. The recent joint RCOG/Maternal Mental Health Alliance report, Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices, further illustrates the need for investment in services across the care pathway in addition to specialist care.
The Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View is right to include a focus on patient safety and we will continue to support implementation of the Better Births maternity transformation programme. While most women in the UK receive exemplary care during labour and the vast majority go home with a healthy baby, a small proportion of babies do die or suffer brain injury because of complications during labour. Our Each Baby Counts programme has already started collecting and pooling the results of local risk management reviews to gain a national picture to better understand these tragedies, each of which has a huge impact on the families involved. By 2020, we hope to have halved the number of babies dying and suffering brain injury at term as a result of incidents during labour*.
This report highlights that there is much to celebrate in terms of what has been achieved so far, but we must all continue to work collaboratively to ensure we maintain progress and develop further. The RCOG recognises the increasing demands and challenging context in which the NHS and our hardworking fellows and members all need to work. Nevertheless, we believe that investing now, focusing on prevention and placing patients and communities in control of their health, is key to ensuring that the NHS continues to deliver the best outcomes for patients.
Since the publication of our 2011 High Quality Women’s Health Care report, we have advocated for a life-course approach to women’s health care, maximising every opportunity that the health service has to engage with a woman to support her to improve her lifestyle and general health, ultimately improving women’s outcomes irrespective of their situation in society. To achieve this, we must pursue an integrated approach that crosses boundaries and encourage investment in the care pathway, supporting women to make informed choices about their health and wellbeing.
* In the UK, each year between 500 and 800 babies die or are left with severe brain injury.
Click here for a copy of the RCOG’s Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices report.
Click here for more information on the RCOG’s Each Baby Counts programme.
Click here for a copy of the RCOG’s High Quality Women’s Health Care: A proposal for change.
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