The government has confirmed it is to U-turn and hand responsibility for commissioning maternity services to GP consortia.
Nursing Times revealed last month that the Department of Health was preparing to backtrack on plans set out in the white paper Liberating the NHS to commission midwifery services nationally through the NHS Commissioning Board.
The DH command paper published this morning in response to the white paper consultation states the change of heart “reflects the weight of consultation responses” arguing that maternity services should be the responsibility of GP consortia in order to focus on local needs.
The Liberating the NHS: Legislative framework and next steps document goes on to detail how the DH will expect the NHS Commissioning Board to focus on “promoting quality improvement and extending choice for pregnant women” and support consortia to work together to commission services.
Where appropriate, GP consortia will be able to pool resources with the board while neonatal services will be directly commissioned by the board.
The document states: “The department considers that this approach is most likely to deliver improvement and a joined-up approach to local services for women and newborn babies.”
However, the U-turn is expected to spark an outcry among midwives and childbirth charities.
The Royal College of Midwives, Independent Midwives UK, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and premature birth charity Bliss all welcomed the original proposal to commission maternity services nationally.