Maternity services prioritised in NHS Long Term Plan

A plan to help improve the quality of patient care – and which demonstrates how the NHS’s £20.5 billion budget will be spent over the next five years – has been announced by the government

We are pleased that maternity services have been prioritised and delighted to hear of many excellent initiatives to help parents and parents-to-be before, during and after the birth.

Elizabeth Duff, our Senior Policy Adviser, says: ‘There’s a huge amount to be positive about in the plan. However, there are a number of gaps among some otherwise excellent initiatives.’

‘We would like to see more targeted measures for those at greatest risk of stillbirth or dying in childbirth, such as families in poverty and women from black and ethnic minority communities.’

We welcome the news of greater access to postnatal physiotherapy, but postnatal care overall is a neglected area in need of investment.’

Continuity of care

88% of women had not met any of the midwives caring for them during labour and birth before going into labour, according to research by NCT and NFWI.

We feel this area should be focused on in order to improve outcomes and provide a better quality of experience for mums and babies.

Elizabeth says: ‘Continuity of carer results in better outcomes: women who received it are less likely to give birth prematurely and more likely to have more straightforward births than those receiving standard care.’

Feeding support

Elizabeth says: ‘The first few weeks with a new baby can be really challenging and too many women who want to breastfeed are left struggling with no support and made to feel guilty for using formula.’

It’s been acknowledged in the NHS Long Term Plan that there needs to be much better practical breastfeeding help and support to empower women, rather than pressurising them.

The lack of feeding support is shocking

Elizabeth explains: ‘This is a hugely valuable investment in the future health of mothers and babies. But it’s crucial that more community support is available too, including from health visitors and GPs.’

This is because so many women stop breastfeeding after their postnatal midwifery care ends.

Mental health

We’re particularly pleased to see the importance of specialist perinatal mental health services from pre-conception to 24 months after birth is recognised, and that help for new fathers who are experiencing mental health difficulties is highlighted.’

However we feel there’s a missed opportunity in not yet funding a six-week postnatal check specifically for the mother.

Nearly half of new mothers’ mental health problems are not identified by a health professional, according to NCT research.

As part of our #Hidden Half campaign, we’re calling for more funding so health professionals can give every mother a full appointment, rather than squeezing it in with an examination of their baby.

Later this year an implementation plan will be revealed, which should set out how all of the ideas in the NHS Long Term Plan will become a reality.

More information

For further details about the NHS Long Term Plan click here