“Campaigning vital to ensure promises are kept,” says Cathy Warwick
Good news from the Department of Health on improving maternity care. On 16th May, the Government pledged to improve NHS maternity services in England in a number of ways. You can read the Government's press release here.
Women will, for example, have one named midwife, who will oversee their care during pregnancy and after they have had their baby. Every woman will also have one-to-one midwife care during labour and birth, and parents-to-be will get the best choice about where and how to give birth. In an area of care too often overlooked, women who have postnatal depression or who suffer a miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a baby will get more support from the NHS.
This is really very good news for women and midwives. These are positive plans from the Government targeting areas of maternity care that are under prioritised and under-resourced. The impact of a miscarriages or a stillbirth can be devastating for the woman and her family and, postnatal depression can be a crippling and sometimes fatal illness. Early detection and treatment is crucial.
It is also excellent to see an intention to ensure that long standing NHS commitments, such as one-to-one care in labour and choice about where and how women give birth, become a reality for all women.
I welcome the Government’s offer to work with ourselves and other groups to make these plans work. This is important because there are a number of challenges we need to address together.
The Government has been committed for some time to ensuring a well-resourced health-visiting service in England. However a good health-visiting service follows on from a good maternity service. The RCM is pleased to see the Government acknowledging this but it also must be resourced.
Whilst there are more midwives now than ever before, numbers of births have been rising steeply and they are more complicated. We know many women are not currently getting one-to-one midwifery care in labour or choice of place of birth. We also know many women do not always get the best care after the birth of their baby.
The RCM has been saying for a long time that without real and sustained investment in midwives change is hard to achieve. This announcement gives us some hope that this is now understood. Having more student midwives in training is a good starting point. We need to work with the Government to ensure that these students are able to find employment as midwives to guarantee delivery of these pledges. The RCM’s assessment is that in order to deliver the high quality care proposed by the Government we need 5,000 more midwives.
All of this makes our campaigning work all the more vital. We need to keep an eye on what’s happening to maternity care locally right around the country to ensure what is promised nationally happens locally.