The following news story appeared in Essentially MIDIRS, vol 4, no 2, February 2013, p24.
The NHS Commissioning Board’s planning guidance for the next financial year, Everyone counts: planning for
patients 2013/14, focuses on increased choice for service users. It sets out how the Board intends to make improvements in user-centred NHS care from April 2013, through collaborative planning between the NHS Commissioning Board and clinical commissioning groups, and by listening to service users. Plans include the introduction of a ‘friends and family test’, which will be introduced from October 2013 for women who have used maternity services. As part of the test women will be asked whether they would recommend the maternity services they used to those closest to them. Louise Silverton, Deputy General secretary at the RCM, responded positively to the proposal, saying: ‘Peer-led information is just as important and significant as evidence-based research’, but she went on to qualify this with: ‘Last year’s Birthplace study by Oxford University showed that women with low-risk pregnancies were more satisfied if they had a home birth or used a midwife-led unit than a doctor-led, obstetric unit. The NHS should not focus on limited performance indicators but also take into account a woman’s total experience of a maternity service’.
Improvements will also be driven by the publication of outcome data covering mortality rates and the quality of certain surgical and medical specialities. All NHS providers will be asked to submit standardised data which may then be easily compared. Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), commented on proposals to improve information and data collection, saying: ‘We are currently working on designing a set of maternity indicators which will fit nicely with this initiative’. The RCOG also welcomed proposals to offer a seven-day service on the grounds that this would provide women with increased access to routine maternity care at the weekends. Tony Falconer stressed that this, it is hoped, will improve outcomes, particularly in relation to urgent cases such as a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, stating: ‘The RCOG fully supports this patient-focussed document. It will improve services and ensure that high quality care is available round-the-clock, instead of only at certain times of the day during the working week’.
The planning guidance was given a rather more cautious welcome by RCM Chief Executive, Cathy Warwick, who — whilst supportive of the ideology and principles behind the guidance — made it clear that real changes are needed on a practical level to enable its implementation: ‘The focus on increased information about the choices available is very welcome. However, that information will be meaningless unless commissioners ensure real choice is available’.
‘We know that, in relation to place of birth, too often this is not the case’.
‘We believe that if statements in recent government pledges, in the Mandate and in this most recent document are all translated into reality on the ground we will see real improvements in the choices women can make regarding their maternity care’.
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