Government reveals plan to make NHS ‘the best place in the world to give birth’

Royal College of Midwives welcomes maternity services package, but ‘not on a shoestring’

Royal College of Midwives welcomes maternity services package, but warns it requires significant investment and ‘cannot be done on a shoestring’

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Extra neonatal nurses are part of a new package of measures for maternity services in England announced by the government.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said the move would make the NHS ‘the best place in the world to give birth’.

The package will be funded under the NHS long-term plan, expected to be published in January. It is intended to help meet the government’s target of halving stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in newborns by 2025.

More specialist nurses

A redesign of neonatal services will bring additional expert nurses and specialists in newborn care, while up to 285,000 new mothers will have improved access to post-natal physiotherapy.

Meanwhile, the traditional NHS red book issued for every new baby will be digitised, meaning parents can access information about their child’s medical history via smartphone.

Unveiling the plans, Mr Hancock said: ‘We will take steps to ensure every expectant mother is supported – from pregnancy to birth to those critical first months of parenthood – with a comprehensive package of personalised, high quality support.’

Mr Hancock said that the digital red book will be ‘easier for parents and fit for the future’. It will be tested by 100,000 mothers in a pilot in 2019, and rolled out across England by 2023-24.

Support for critically ill babies

The new package also includes:

  • Improved facilities and support for critically ill babies from 2021-22, with plans to make more intensive care cots available.
  • Making NHS physiotherapy more widely available for the one in three women who experience incontinence after childbirth. An estimated 285,000 women will receive help by 2023-24.
  • A requirement that each maternity service deliver an accredited, evidence-based infant feeding programme in 2019-20.

Royal College of Midwives general secretary Gill Walton welcomed the package, particularly plans for women to see the same midwife throughout and after their pregnancy. But she warned: ‘Implementation of these changes cannot be done on a shoestring. It requires significant ring-fenced investment.’


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