by Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the RCM.
The Department of Health has pledged to give every pregnant woman one named midwife who will oversee her care during pregnancy and after she has had her baby. They also committed to giving every pregnant woman one-to-one care from a midwife during labour and birth. Thirdly, the Department spelt out that mothers-to-be will get the best choice about where and how to have their baby.
This means we now have some solid ways in which to assess whether incoming clinical commissioning groups are doing their jobs properly, because we can easily measure whether these pledges are being honoured on the ground.
Indeed we have some baselines already. A recent survey by the RCM through the Bounty Word of Mum panel found that a quarter did not always have a midwife when in labour when they felt they needed them. On choice of where to have their baby, just 43% reported being offered the option of a midwife led unit and just over half (53%) said they were offered a home birth. These findings show there is plenty of room for improvement and that this government is still some way off from delivering high quality maternity care.
We plan to create some mum-reported indicators linked to the new Department of Health pledges to make sure they are happening from the perspective of the most important person in all this: the mother.
You can access the site at http://protect.rcm.org.uk/ and it is designed to empower midwives as well as other NHS professionals and members of the public to report issues with maternity services in their area. We already know for example of birth centres in Kent and Scotland that will no longer carry out births and of a birth centre in Yorkshire that will close.
The government has now made clear commitments on improving maternity care. They have boasted about the number of student midwives in training. This is all good, and we congratulate them on taking these steps. But those commitments must be honoured, and newly-qualified midwives must be brought into the service as midwives.
The previous government ended up having to earmark additional resources to maternity care when it became clear that improvements promised in Maternity matters were struggling to see the light of day. Will this government be forced to do the same? We will have to wait and see. I hope it won’t be necessary because local commissioners will see the clear pledges that have been made and get on with the job of delivering them.
We are moving into a brave new NHS world, and the RCM is meeting that challenge by upping its active monitoring of what is happening on the ground, and doing more of what midwives do best – listening to mums.
Contributor: Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the RCM
Photo credit: Frank Baron, The Guardian