From review to implementation: embedding the 2020 vision for maternity services

Since the launch of the maternity report Better Births, a lot has been happening. The Review Team has been out and about promoting the seven themes in the report and our determination to ensure its 28 recommendations will be implemented. We know that although our maternity services are good they must be better if we are to give women and their families a service which is among the best in the world.

Research shows that the start to life can affect the whole of life throughout childhood, teenage years and into adult hood. A poor experience can have a devastating effect. We must achieve the vision set out in better births in every way that we can.

With members of the team, I have presented the report, particularly its main themes of choice and safety to a range of groups and conferences, including the All Party Parliamentary Health Group, the Celebrating Continuity Conference, the Midwifery Unit Network, the Westminster Forum, the Bristol Pregnancy Sickness Support Group and the Capita Maternity Conference. In addition, we have had a range of meetings with individuals to influence progress.

There are two particular pieces of work I would like to mention among the rest of our initiatives.

Sir Cyril Chantler and I with NHS England and the Department of Health have had a range of meetings to further develop the concept of Rapid Resolution and Redress for babies who incur avoidable harm. If we can mirror the Swedish system, we could give parents not only a quicker settlement, compensation to manage their baby’s future, but a degree of peace of mind. Without denying them their right to go to law if that is their wish. It will also enable health professionals and the service in general to learn from mistakes quickly and potentially reduce the cost of litigation.

In May Simon Stevens launched the Maternity Choice and Personalisation Pioneers. This is an initiative to enable women to hold their personal maternity care budget as set out in the report. We were excited by the number of CCGs who in groups, wanted to submit applications – one third of the whole country. We had 18 applications and have chosen seven groups. It was a hard task as the applications were of a high order. It is clear that CCGs have been thinking about how they can transform care to achieve better outcomes for women, their families and their babies. We are working with the seven Pioneers to enable this very interesting initiative to become a reality. We want to see women and their families have more control over their choices and the decisions they make.

I am delighted that Sarah-Jane Marsh is to chair the Maternity Transformation Programme Board. It has its first meeting this month and NHS England will establish alongside it a Maternity Transformation Council to support and challenge the design and delivery of the programme, which I am to chair and Sir Cyril Chantler is the Vice-chair. The final membership is being finalised and we will publish details as soon as possible. I am keen to continue the open way in which we ran the review and we look forward to hearing views in addition to those of the Council members.

Throughout the review we learnt so much by listening to past and current users of the service. We also heard of the enormous challenges that there are in providing a kind, safe service, putting the women at the centre of care. The Maternity Transformation Programme will address these challenges to ensure that giving birth remains one of the most memorable and best experiences of women’s lives.

Dr Julia Cumberlege

Baroness Julia Cumberlege CBE DL was appointed a Junior Health Minister in 1992 and for five years she covered all Health and Social Services matters in the House of Lords.

She has been commissioned by two Governments to produce two national reports: “Neighbourhood Nursing – a Focus for Care” and “Changing Childbirth”.

At the invitation of the Royal College of Physicians, Julia has chaired two working parties. The first report “Doctors in Society” was published in December 2005. The second, “Future Physician, Changing Doctors in Changing Times”, was published in May 2010.

From 2000 until July 2006, Julia chaired St George’s Medical School.

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