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The Maternity Review’s consultation phase has been fascinating, sometimes moving and always informative – but it has now come to an end and the preparation of our report is in full swing.
The Review team has been meeting regularly and I want to thank all of them for their energy and commitment during this busy, yet exciting time. We are making excellent progress and will deliver our report by the end of December. We expect it to be published in the New Year.
As we have gone about drafting the report, I have been reflecting on the purpose of the Review. Before we embarked on this journey in the spring, Simon Stevens asked us to assess current maternity care and consider how services should be developed to meet the changing needs of women and babies.
We were clear from the outset that we would make proposals that would shape future services that are personalised, family friendly, safe, kind and professional.
Our terms of reference requested us to develop proposals for the future shape of modern, high quality and sustainable maternity services across England, and in particular to achieve three complementary objectives:
- to review the UK and international evidence and make recommendations on safe and efficient models of maternity services, including midwife-led units;
- to ensure the NHS supports and enables women to make safe and appropriate choices of maternity care for them and their babies; and
- to support NHS staff including midwives to provide responsive care.
Our Review has been wide-ranging but at the same time has maintained focus on these three objectives. Bearing in mind we have only had nine months in which to carry out the review, we have had to structure it tightly. We decided on a clearly-defined maternity timeframe – from the first point of contact with health professionals during pregnancy through to birth and postnatal care in the first six weeks after birth.
The report is not yet ready but I am confident that by drawing on our online survey responses, the inspirational conversations we have had with women, partners, families, healthcare professionals, commissioners, academics and others, as well as the wealth of evidence that they have brought to our attention, it will put forward ideas that will help to transform services and outcomes for the better.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed, including more than 6,000 people who took part in the surveys. We have been delighted with the response we have received throughout the course of the Review.
We know expectations are high but have to be realistic about the challenging ambitions held by many, and recognise that even small changes take time to implement.
Inevitably there are factors which sit outside the scope of this review, and some outside maternity services altogether, but which may influence the health and well-being of women and babies. Some of these important factors have been raised with us. Where this has been the case, we have listened with great care and we have referred the points raised to others who are best-placed to respond.
We have been interested to see maternity care feature on the national agenda in recent weeks, including the Health Secretary’s pledge to fund improvements to technology and equipment, which we hope will make maternity services safer. Similarly, it was encouraging to see the proposed investment in perinatal mental health announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. We are working closely with the Mental Health team at NHS England on this.
So as Christmas approaches, we are very busy working on our report. We are energised and enthused in the knowledge that, together with everyone involved, we can and will make a positive difference to the care that women and babies receive at this special and formative time in their lives.