Trust board members chosen to be “maternity safety champions” must ensure that midwives and their support staff receive all the training and resources they need, according to latest guidance.
The regulator NHS Improvement has published a guide designed to help support maternity safety champions at all levels – trust, regional and national – to carry out their role.
“We hope that this guide will empower and give all maternity champions the information they need”
The role was set out in the 2016 the Safer maternity care strategy, which is intended to help achieve the government’s ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2025.
It called on trusts to designate three people to champion maternity safety in their organisation – one at board level along with one obstetrician and one midwife to be jointly responsible at unit level.
Maternity clinical networks were also asked to designate regional maternity safety champions and two national champions – Dr Matthew Jolly and Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent – were appointed by the Department of Health.
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The new guide outlines broad role descriptions and responsibilities, and suggests activities to promote best practice, recognising that these will develop, noted NHS Improvement.
It also “signposts” existing safety initiatives and improvements that can offer support to champions, said the regulator.
It stated that the guide would “enable, support and empower” champions while the role was embedded, but noted that they were also likely to want to “develop and grow” it themselves.
“It provides guidance on how each tier of maternity safety champions should interact”
Around a dozen responsibilities are set out for board levels champions, including to “regularly monitor safety and outcomes in maternity services”.
The guide also tells them to ensure their organisation sets out “clearly and publicly” how it is working to improve maternity service safety, with regular progress updates.
They should also “ensure staff in maternity and neonatal services are getting all the training, support and resources they need and promote a culture of multidisciplinary team-working with joint training, briefings and handovers”, the guidance states.
In addition, if their unit is revealed to be an “outlier” on patient outcomes, they should ensure audits and investigations take place to inform where improvements are needed and is training is required.
Meanwhile, those in the joint midwife and obstetric role should “champion” maternity safety in their trust and contribute to the implementation of a locally developed safety improvement plan.
They should also ensure they have links to their board-level champion, local maternity clinical network and the maternal and neonatal health quality improvement programme in their region.
Michele Upton, NHS Improvement’s head of maternity and neonatal transformation programmes said: “This guide gives a comprehensive look at the roles and responsibilities of maternity safety champions at national, regional, board and ward levels.
“In addition, it provides guidance on how each tier of maternity safety champions should interact with other parts of the system and each other, to ensure that local safety priorities are identified, shared and acted upon in a cohesive and collaborative manner,” she said.
“We hope that this guide will empower and give all maternity champions the information they need to promote, protect and improve safety in our maternity units, ensuring that as many mothers and babies as possible receive safe, high quality care,” she added.
In response, the Royal College of Midwives said it “very much” welcomed the publication of what it described as “this important guidance”.
Gill Walton, the RCM’s chief executive and general secretary, said: “Our maternity services are continuing to improve and deliver the safest possible care to women and their babies and that’s why it is so vital we support those who have stepped up to become maternity safety champions within our maternity services.
“As an organisation, the RCM is here to support our members so that they can deliver safe high quality care and we will certainly be signposting maternity safety champions to these new resources,” she said.