Maternity services in England are expected to see a large increase in investment this year, according to research by the Royal College of Midwives.
Trusts and foundation trusts are planning to spend an average of 7 per cent more than last year.
The RCM said it appeared to show that government plans to increase maternity funding and midwife numbers were now resulting in improvement at the “front line”.
RCM director of employment relations and development Jon Skewes said: “We have been campaigning for a number of years for increased investment and have been disappointed that previously all our research showed it was not getting to the front line. That now actually seems to be happening.”
However the research, based on information supplied by 97 trusts and foundations, also shows large differences in the spending increases between regions.
This varies from 2 per cent in the North East and West Midlands – lower than overall NHS spending growth – to 15 per cent in Yorkshire & Humber.
Mr Skewes said in some cases this was justified because spending and headcounts were already higher than elsewhere, though in some it was not.
The government has said midwife numbers should increase until 2012 and the college said it is now seeing growth.
However, Mr Skewes said midwives are concerned this will stop as NHS investment is reduced to deal with the impact of the recession.
He said: “Our fear is we will see one year of some increase but that will be cut off as the effect of public spending restrictions hit the health service. They need to continue to grow even at a time of financial stringency.”
The government committed to improving safety and improving access and choice of maternity care in its April 2007 Maternity Matters strategy. In January 2008, following a highly critical Healthcare Commission maternity review, it announced an extra £330m funding for PCTs for services, spread over 2008-2011.
However, staff have complained the money has not been spent on maternity, and recruitment has been slow.
King’s College Hospital foundation trust head of midwifery Katie Yiannouzis said PCT funding decisions would continue to vary by area, and it was important to maintain spending to help trusts develop and improve services. She said: “The needs in London are huge and the birth rate is going up across the region, so services need to continue to grow.”