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Money to improve maternity care not reaching frontline services

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Many PCTs are not spending their allocation of £330m in central funding earmarked to improve maternity services, the government has admitted.

A number of frontline maternity service staff and units have voiced concerns that money given to trusts for use in improving services and training extra midwives has not reached the frontline,’ a senior government adviser said last week.

Dr Shelia Shribman, the Department of Health’s national clinical director for children, young people and maternity services, called on maternity staff to alert the DH if they found the money was not ‘getting through’.

‘I know that David Flory, the DH’s director general for finance, performance and operations, has briefed finance directors about this – it is a question of finding this money and putting it to the use that it is meant to be put to,’ she told delegates at a Westminster conference on maternity services.

In January health secretary Alan Johnson announced that £330m was to be made available for maternity services over three years, with £110m to be spent in 2008–2009, following a damning review of maternity services by the Healthcare Commission (NT News, 29 January, p3).

The review found that the average level of staffing in units was 31 midwives per 1,000 deliveries, a figure significantly below the RCM recommendation of 36 per 1,000. Only 18% of England’s 148 units met this recommended level.

Jane Verity, DH head of maternity, first years and families, also confirmed there was concern that the money that had been given to PCTs to fund maternity services had not been given out.

‘There is a clear message which will also be incorporated in the NHS operating framework in October that this money must be spent in the first year to prepare maternity services and in the second year to start increasing access in terms of the percentage of women accessing maternity services and increasing the workforce,’ she said.

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