On the road to transforming maternity care

Sarah-Jane Marsh, chair of the NHS England Maternity Transformation Programme Board, provides an update on the work going on to make maternity care across the country safer and giving women greater control and choice.

I start with exciting news that the 2017 CQC Maternity Survey showed most women are having a positive experience of maternity care and treatment within the NHS.  There have also been improvements in areas such as choice of where to give birth, the quality of information available and access to help and support postnatally. I know that improvements like this don’t just happen – so thank you.

The Maternity Transformation Programme (MTP) Board Meeting held in December focused on how we ensure 2018 is a year of accelerated delivery, and we heard all about the hard work local maternity systems (LMS’) have put into planning how they will deliver on personalisation, alongside ensuring services are safe – and that any current concerns are adequately highlighted and addressed.

The focus of the MTP national team is to support the implementation plans of each LMS, and the team are currently meeting with a number of local systems to ensure that they are in the best position to deliver the Better Births vision. We also have our seven early adopters to turn to for help, and I am pleased to report they are on course to deliver some fantastic new models of care and approaches to continuity of carer that I know other areas can learn from.

A great example of this is a pioneering ‘pop up’ birthing unit based in Wirral’s Seacombe Children’s Centre, which will provide enhanced choice for mothers in the area as an alternative to hospital.

On safety, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has laid down a further challenge to us by moving the national ambition to reduce stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal death and brain injuries forward from 2030 to 2025. The Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle is considered an invaluable tool in achieving this ambition and its impact is currently being assessed by the University of Manchester.

The MTP Stakeholder Council also continues to hold the MTP Board to account, and their latest meeting saw further discussion on the Maternity Decision Aids which we are hoping to release shortly to support LMS’ to provide consistent information around the benefits and risks of different birth settings to women and families. You can find out more about what happened at the latest meeting on our website here.

Following the MTP Board, the Board and the Stakeholder Council held a joint meeting to discuss the culture in maternity services, in full recognition that if we do not get this right then all of our other initiatives will fail.  The discussions were certainly lively as everyone gave their views on the current situation and how this needs to evolve to improve the care we give. We heard from midwives, obstetricians, maternity charities and mothers as well as representatives from NHS organisations and royal colleges on how to make this happen.

This piece of work is so important in supporting us to giving consistent messages about what we are striving for together – and in my next update I will be able to share and build on the outcomes of our discussions, so watch this space!

In the meantime I would encourage you to sign-up for our two year on event at the end of March. I look forward to seeing you there.

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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