The National Maternity Review, commissioned by NHS England, has published recommendations designed to give women greater control and more choice.
The review was led by independent experts and chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege.
The review finds that despite the increases in the number of births and the increasing complexity of cases, the quality and outcomes of maternity services have improved significantly over the last decade.
The stillbirth and neonatal mortality rate in England fell by over 20% in the ten years from 2003 to 2013. Maternal mortality in the UK has reduced from 14 deaths per 100,000 maternities in 2003/05 to 9 deaths per 100,000 maternities in 2011/13.
However, the review also found meaningful differences across the country, and further opportunities to improve the safety of care and reduce still births.
The report provides a framework highlighting seven key priorities to drive improvement and ensure women and babies receive excellent care wherever they live.
The first priority focuses on ensuring personalised care, centred on the woman, her baby and her family, based around their needs and their decisions, where they have genuine choice, informed by unbiased information.
The framework recommends that:
- Every woman should develop a personalised care plan, with her midwife and other health professionals, which sets out her decisions about her care, reflects her wider health needs and is kept up to date as her pregnancy progresses.
- Unbiased information should be made available to all women to help them make their decisions and develop their care plan. This should be through their own digital maternity tool, which enables them to access their own health records and information that is appropriate to them, including the latest evidence and what services are available locally.
- They should be able to choose the provider of their antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care and be in control of exercising those choices through their own NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget.
- Women should be able to make decisions about the support they need during birth and where they would prefer to give birth, whether this is at home, in a midwifery unit or in an obstetric unit, after full discussion of the benefits and risks associated with each option.
Continuity of care and safer care are also highlighted by the review. It recommends that to support sharing of data and information between professionals and organisations, use of an electronic maternity record should be rolled out nationally. And that providers should ensure the woman can input the information that is important to her.
It also recommends trialing an NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget which would give women more control over their care.
Baroness Julia Cumberlege, Chair of the Maternity Review said:
“To be among the best in the world, we need to put women, babies and their families at the centre of their care. It is so important that they are supported through what can be a wonderful and life-changing experience. Women have told us they want to be given genuine choices and have the same person looking after them throughout their care.”
You can access the full National Maternity Review report here.