Momentum building for better maternity care

As autumn takes hold, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the last few months which have been busy for the Maternity Review. We have made some encouraging progress and I would like to thank everyone that has been involved so far.

We have had thousands of responses to our online consultation. If you have not already contributed, there is still time to do so: we have extended the closing date until Sunday 15 November to give as much time as possible for people to have their say.

The Review Team has also been working with the charities Sands and Bliss to ensure that we are capturing the important views of parents whose babies died before, during or soon after birth, and from parents who experienced complications affecting the health of the mother or baby.

This week, we launched a survey specifically for these families, which can be accessed through the NHS consultation site if you would like to contribute.

As well as working with us to develop the survey, Sands and Bliss have also kindly offered their support in setting up meetings to talk with these families about their experiences and what can be done better. It is vital that we learn from these experiences in order to improve services for future generations.

We have also continued to listen to your opinions through our drop-in events. We held our last event in Stafford and I am delighted at the response we have received across the country, with so many mums, dads, doctors, midwives, commissioners and charities taking the time to visit us and share their opinions.

At each event, we have collected a wealth of information through comment walls, an ideas post box and all of our conversations. All of this information has been shared across the Review Team so that we can take into account all of your ideas and suggestions as we begin to shape our report.

Alongside the drop-in events, we have also visited numerous services across the country. I want to thank all of those who have welcomed us, and we have seen some excellent innovations in practice.

We have also been overseas and I would like to extend a particular thanks to our colleagues from Sweden and The Netherlands – you have given us lots of food for thought and a great deal to consider as we progress with our Review. Above all, I was struck by the culture in these countries and the focus on working together, with everyone taking responsibility and being encouraged to support and challenge one another to achieve better outcomes.

Last month, the Maternity Review held its second Birth Tank event in Birmingham. Thank you so much to everyone who came along for making it such an interesting and informative day. The event was attended by a diverse group of people, with different opinions, experiences and involvement in maternity services. However, there was one thing everyone had in common: the ambition to drive change and improve services for women and their families.

The day was focussed around innovations and we invited those who are delivering these innovations to share their models of good and interesting practice, each which have the potential to improve care. Through group discussions, participants were able to consider whether these ideas could be replicated in other areas and what would need to be done to implement them. The room was buzzing with constructive ideas and discussion, generating a positive and exciting atmosphere.

My personal learning from the day is that we need to start implementing change now. I encouraged those in the room not to wait for the Review to be published at the end of the year and I ask the same of you.

We need you all to act as ‘change champions’ and start implementing your aspirations and making improvements for a better future.

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.