Maternity care shake-up as new government plans announced


All women are to be given more choice about where they give birth by 2009, according to new plans released by the Department of Health last week. It will see a shift from hospital, consultant-led births to an increase in midwife-led care in regional super-centres. Mary Newburn, of the National Childbirth Trust, welcomes the news: “Just because services have been organised around hospitals in the past doesn’t mean this is the best or only way of providing care,” she said. She also welcomed a “shift in thinking that will allow more maternity care to be provided by midwives via midwife-led birth centres, local children’s centres and at home.”


While the Royal College of Midwives are in support of home births and mid-wife led maternity care, they have stressed that a further 10,000 midwives will be needed, on top of the 24,000 currently practising in the UK, in order to meet the right level of care for expectant mothers. “We need more than fine words to ensure that this vision is translated into maternity services that provide not only choice but one-to-one care from the same midwife throughout pregnancy,” a spokesperson said.

But critics say the plans are a result of ‘financial panic’ and are concerned about the impact of many hospital maternity units closing. Dr Sheila Shribman, the government’s children and maternity tsar, assured doubters that “women will not be losing access to a consultant should they need one, it might not just be down the road.” Quite how far women will have to travel has not been stated.


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