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NHS England chief exec confirms national review of maternity services

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NHS England has revealed details of a major review of how maternity services are commissioned, in the wake of the investigation into University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

The review will assess current maternity care provision and consider how services should be developed to meet the “changing needs of women and babies”. 

Among its tasks it will look at the current mix between hospital obstetrics unit, midwife-led units – both freestanding and alongside consultant led obstetric-units – and homebirths.

The review was trailed in the health service five-year plan – the NHS Five Year Forward View – which was published in October.

“The time is right to take stock, and consider how we can best deliver maternity care safely in every part of the country”

Simon Stevens

A similar review of maternity care models in Scotland was recently announced by the Scottish Government.

The announcement of the terms of reference for the NHS England work were published hours after the Morecambe Bay investigation findings were revealed in the Kirkup report.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, highlighted that the Kirkup report was “truly shocking”.

“Most mums say they get great NHS maternity care, but equally we know we can do better in many places,” he said.

“The time is right to take stock, and consider how we can best deliver maternity care safely in every part of the country, while better meeting the high expectations women and their families rightly have,” he said.

Recent advances in maternity care, changes in the demographics of women having babies, and preferences of where they want to give birth will form a “key focus” of the review, said NHS England.

The terms of reference for the review state that it will make recommendations on safe and efficient models of maternity services, including midwife-led units, based on the existing evidence.

Secondly, it will ensure that the NHS supports and enables women to make “safe and appropriate” choices of maternity care and supports NHS staff, including midwives, to provide responsive care.

NHS England said review was expected to report by the end of the year and would be led by an external chair, supported by a panel.

The appointment of the chair and other review panel members will be announced shortly, it added.

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