Plans to improve maternity services in England are to be investigated by a group of MPs, following a national review earlier this year.
The Commons’ health select committee has launched the short inquiry to consider the findings and recommendations of the independent review, which was commissioned by NHS England and chaired by baroness Julia Cumberlege.
Findings from the review’s report – called Better Births: Improving outcomes of maternity services in England – were published in February and highlighted the wide variation in the quality of services across the country, with widespread under-reporting of safety incidents.
- ‘Distressingly’ wide variation in quality of maternity services
- ‘Lack of respect’ between maternity staff found in national review
- ’Radical’ changes to maternity staffing models called for by review
Problems with communication, handovers and disagreements over how to handle situations between midwives, obstetricians and other healthcare professionals were also noted.
The review made a total of 28 recommendations across seven themes including the provision of personalised care, the continuity of a carer, and a reformed payment system.
It also called for action to ensure safer care, better postnatal and perinatal mental health and improvements to multi-professional relationships and working across service boundaries.
A more “radical approach” to maternity models was suggested in which a team of four to six midwives would share a caseload between them to ensure women are looked after by staff they know. Another recommendation was for women to be given their own budgets to spend on their maternity care.
Bill Kirkup cutout Masthead
The review placed an emphasis on meeting women’s choice, which will increase community births and help the NHS save money.
The maternity review was commissioned partly in response to a major investigation into University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, following a number of maternal and baby deaths at its Furness Hospital.
The chair of the Morcambe Bay inquiry, Dr Bill Kirkup, criticised the maternity review after publication of its findings, claiming it ”isn’t the review that was specifically asked for [by the Morecambe Bay inquiry]”.
He said he it was ”disappointing… the safety angle has not received the attention it deserves”.