The Scottish Government has announced a “refresh” of its policies on maternity and neonatal services to ensure “every mother and baby continues to get the best possible care”.
The government said it would review the latest evidence and best practice to enhance services and increase the choice available to pregnant women.
The review would conclude with proposals for a “refreshed Scottish model of care”, which could potentially include more options for home births and births in midwife-led or community settings.
The assessment would look at examples of “new and innovative” practice, and consider the levels and types of services available in Scotland, said ministers.
“We have excellent and safe maternity and neonatal services in Scotland, but we want to make sure they continue to improve”
For example, they noted new evidence around the benefits of different birth settings for mothers and babies would be considered “in the face” of Scotland’s changing demographics and birth rates.
They added that further details on the scope and process of the review would be announced “in due course”, following a short period of consultation with key organisations and patient representatives.
The report will also consider any relevant recommendations from the independent investigation into infant and maternal deaths at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which is due to be published next week.
Maureen Watt, Scottish minister for public health, said: “We have excellent and safe maternity and neonatal services in Scotland, but we want to make sure they continue to improve.
“Changes to birth rate, demographics, new best practice and guidelines, all need to be taken into account as we look to enhance the services provided to babies and their families,” she said.
“That is why we are going to assess the services we have in place at the moment, working with experts and expectant mums and dads themselves. This will lead to a refreshed model of care, focusing on what works well and spreading best practice across our NHS,” she added.
“It is right the Scottish Government are looking at our maternity and neonatal services, given the pressures on the service from more complex cases and the ageing workforce”
Gillian Smith, director of Royal College of Midwives Scotland, welcomed the review, “given the pressures on the service from more complex cases and the ageing workforce”.
She noted recent clinical research and also guidance from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence that suggested “we should be shifting our focus from hospital-based births to more conducive birth environments – whether that is in midwife-led units or at home”.
“Our members want to deliver the best quality care for mothers and babies, and we look forward to being involved in this work and helping to shape the future direction for maternity services in Scotland,” she said.