A new review into maternity care published last month has recommended that expectant mothers be given ‘birth budgets’ of £3,000. With these ‘birth budgets’, women will be able to decide what care they receive during and after pregnancy, as well as ensuring better support for safer pregnancies. This new initiative will ensure that women have more control over their care than ever before, as well as address some areas of current care which need improvement.
The National Maternity Review
The National Maternity Review, overseen by Julia Cumberlege, was commissioned by NHS England in a bid to address the need for improvement and consistency in the care provided to women. The report has found that overall, maternity services have significantly improved since 2003-2013, with the number of still births and neonatal mortality rates falling by 20%. The maternal mortality rate has also dropped from 14 deaths per 100,000 maternities to 9.
Despite these positive outcomes, the report has also found that more can be done to improve maternity services to further reduce the number of still births as well as ensuring safe, consistent care across the country. Issues such as smoking during pregnancy and obesity are also factors to consider, as they can lead to not only complications during pregnancy, but also poor health for the child.
There are a number of main points covered in the review, including recommendations such as:
- To offer more personalised care to women based on their unique needs and decisions
- To ensure continuity of care, to encourage trust and to respect the expectant mother’s decisions.
- To improve the quality of postnatal and perinatal mental health care
- To ensure a fairer payment system for care providers, ensuring commission is based on being able to provide personalised, safe care of the expectant mother’s choosing.
- To provide safer care with more joined up working in terms of creating a safety culture across organisations, as well as the formation of a national standardised investigation process to ensure an open and constructive process when things go wrong.
- To ensure ‘multi-professional working’ through better relationships between midwives, obstetricians and others to provide better care.
What does this mean for expectant mothers?
The review is significant for expectant mothers as it means they will have more control over the care they receive, as well as assurances that care will be made safer and more consistent across the whole of England. When speaking about the report at its launch, Lady Cumberlege said: “for the vast majority of women, giving birth and having a new member of the family is a really joyous occasion. But when things go wrong, it is devastating. It is a tragedy. It scars people for life.” Many women were consulted about their views and their desires in terms of the care they receive, and these views have been considered carefully in the review.
By being allocated a budget, where it is safe to do so, women will be offered a choice of where they can give birth as well as how. Many women prefer to give birth at home, whilst others may choose midwifery-led units or hospitals. The choice will be theirs. Scans and other vital appointments such as blood tests will also come out of this budget and could potentially allow women to have these on weekends or after work, at times that suit the mother’s personal life and commitments.
The importance of post-natal care
One of the key things to come out of the review is the need for more investment in mental health care, especially for post-natal services. Whilst new mothers currently tend to have two to three post-natal appointments, more needs to be done to ensure that women who may be suffering from post-natal depression and other issues get additional care, requiring additional funding and investment.
Whilst it may be some time before the recommendations from the review are implemented, you can find more about the care currently available for expectant mothers on the NHS website.