Maternity Programme moves towards delivery

An update from the Chair of the NHS England Maternity Transformation Programme.

The Maternity Transformation Programme is now well underway and it feels like with each meeting we are moving further and further into the delivery phase.

The Board recently held its tenth meeting and reported on the huge amount of work being done to further the aims of the programme which I outline very briefly.

A total of 44 Local Maternity Systems (LMSs) have now been established across the country and are already bringing together their plans to implement Better Births.

By October every part of England will have made substantial progress. The programme is supporting LMSs to do this via useful products coming from all nine of the national work streams, direct engagement when requested, a bespoke support offer to each LMS and ensuring LMSs have as much information as possible about existing outcomes and the quality of their services.

I was thrilled to host the first LMS Leaders Day on 18 July. The event brought together local leaders from across LMS’, and the national team. Discussions were lively and productive and the event allowed everyone to share progress, voice concerns and offer suggestions for areas of additional national support. I look forward to meeting again in November.

NHS England will soon be publishing helpful guidance around implementing continuity of carer – a key recommendation set out in Better Births. This guidance will not provide a precise blue-print, rather help LMSs develop a model of care which works for them, whilst staying true to the principle of continuity covering the antenatal, postpartum intra-partum and post-natal stages of pregnancy, reflecting the needs of local women, their babies and their families.

We have always said that workforce is the heart of delivering the improvements described in Better Births and Health Education England reported back on the progress they have made on the Maternity Transformation Workforce Interim Report. This includes an assessment of the existing workforce in maternity services. The next stage is to look at local demand and the impacts of the policies in Better Births leading to a full maternity workforce delivery plan.

The Department of Health reported on the progress being made towards standardising investigations into maternity and neonatal deaths. We know maternity services have never been safer, but when things go wrong the consequence is catastrophic. It is incredibly important to the families, and to healthcare professionals, that investigations are thorough, timely and that lessons are learnt and applied.

There is a lot of work taking place to get investigations right across the whole NHS system, not just in maternity, but for me, maternity requires something subtly different.

Each Baby Counts is an important tool and there is no reason why each and every baby death in the country should not be assessed and reported at Board level using it. Then, where appropriate, initiating and properly utilising the Serious Investigations Framework is key.

We will be working hard to ensure the framework is understood and followed across maternity services in England, and using the LMS and Board level Governance to produce and implement action plans which result from each investigation. Again, more on this will follow.

In relation to when things go wrong, the Maternity Bereavement Experience Measure has recently been published by the London Clinical Networks. The questionnaire and supporting resources were created collaboratively by Sands, NHS England and the London Maternity Clinical Network. The feedback received from this survey will provide a unique insight into the experiences of bereaved families and, most critically, will be instrumental in informing improvements in care.

Finally, a plug: the Maternity Transformation Programme has secured a main stage slot at NHS Expo on the 12th Sept. I am delighted to have this opportunity to talk to healthcare leaders about the improvements we are making to maternity services. This is our moment and we cannot let it pass us by.

So plenty going on, and plenty still to come. Our next Board meeting follows on the 17 October 2017.

Sarah-Jane Marsh

Sarah-Jane Marsh is National Director of Urgent and Emergency Care and Deputy Chief Operating Officer for NHS Engalnd.

Sarah-Jane joined NHS England in January 2023. Previously she was Chief Executive of Birmingham Children’s Hospital for over 13 years, achieving an Outstanding CQC rating, before integrating with Birmingham Women’s in 2017 to create Birmingham Women’s and Children’s, the first such organisation in Europe.

In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarah-Jane was asked to become Director of Testing at the newly formed NHS Test and Trace and during 2021 she Chaired the National Health and Social Care Discharge Taskforce. Sarah-Jane has also led the NHS England Maternity Transformation Programme, the NHS England Children and Young People’s Transformation Programme, and the Genomics England New-born Screening Programme.

In 2022 Sarah-Jane received a CBE for her services to leadership in the NHS and an honorary professorship from the University of Birmingham in recognition of her contribution to science and research.

Her passions are exceeding the expectations of patients and citizens, while supporting leaders from all backgrounds to achieve their full potential.

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