Postnatal care is in crisis and failing to meet the needs of mothers and babies, a leading expert has warned.
Services are fragmented and often low priority for funding despite the importance of good support at this critical time, according to Dr Debra Bick, professor of evidence based midwifery practice at King’s College London.
“NHS services for women post-birth are fragmented and fail to meet the needs of babies, mothers, their partners and families”
She set out her concerns earlier this week while delivering the Zepherina Veitch Memorial Lecture, an annual Royal College of Midwives event, which was held this year in Oxford on 11 June.
“Care received on postnatal wards generates more complaints from women in the UK than any other aspect of maternity services,” she said. “The UK also continues to have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.”
An increased birth rate, NHS cuts and a national shortage of midwives had made the situation worse, Dr Bick told the audience.
“NHS services for women post-birth are fragmented and fail to meet the needs of babies, mothers, their partners and families with no consideration of the long-term impact that shortages in postnatal care have for maternal and child health, wider society and future NHS resources,” she said.
She added that both acute and primary care services must be more “women-focused” with women’s views integral to the planning and design of services.
Meanwhile, the NHS needed to “equip and empower” midwives to support the delivery of high quality postnatal care for all, she said.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said the lecture reflected the concerns of many mothers and midwives.
“There are challenges ahead for health services in the UK and our main priority as midwives must be to ensure the safety and quality of care for mothers, babies and families is not threatened,” she said.