Maternity services should be radically reformed so that women receive the best care in the right place, according to a group of leading health experts.
Under proposals being led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), more midwifery-led units should be created so that women with low-risk pregnancies can give birth outside of hospitals.
Consultant units should also be cut so that senior doctors can provide more 24-hour care to maternity patients, it is suggested.
In a letter published in The Times today, RCOG president Dr Anthony Falconer, writes: “In maternity, we need to co-ordinate services so that women receive the best care in the right place.
“Many women need only simple interventions, which can be done out of hospitals.
“This will mean more midwifery-led units and fewer consultant units so that the most specialist care can be concentrated around the clock.
“This must be done using a co-ordinated approach that combines national leadership, political courage and a thorough assessment of women’s needs.”
The letter is co-signed by five other leading health experts including Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing and Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
A series of recommendations on how to improve women’s healthcare are made in a report published today by the RCOG.
Royal College of Midwives general secretary Cathy Warwick said: “We welcome the report, its approach and its underpinning principles for a Women’s Health Network. We look forward to working with our fellow professionals at RCOG on the maternity aspects of the report. It is notable that obstetricians in the UK are supportive of midwifery-led care.”
“Overall, the report has a broader focus than maternity services is limited in what it says about maternity services. However, it clearly supports local care for women who do not need specialist support and supports midwife- led maternity units, informed choice for women about options for childbirth, and women-centred care models. The RCM thoroughly supports and endorses all these aspects of the report.”