We are making rapid progress

An encouraging update from the Chair of the NHS England Maternity Transformation Programme:

As we move further into the implementation of the Maternity Transformation Programme, we have a huge amount of exciting news to share.

I am very proud of the rapid progress already achieved since our launch in July 2016 and this is the first in a series of blogs providing an update on the latest developments, focusing on the activities of the Programme Board as well as reflections at key programme milestones.

The Board has just met for the fifth time and it’s always such a pleasure to hear about the great work being done at all levels to drive this work forwards for women and babies across England, and to discuss what’s next.  This meeting was no exception, and here are a few highlights:

Comprehensive implementation plans have been developed for all nine work streams, setting out the detail of how the transformation of maternity services will take place. They describe the objectives, how they will be achieved, by when, and how we will be able to measure that the work has made a real difference to maternity services.

Each of the work stream leads presented an overview of their plans, and we discussed linkages between the different areas of work. Three of the work streams are still working to finalise elements of their plans, and we will continue to support these teams to think through their proposals, while moving ahead with implementation of the rest of their plan. The other six plans were signed off wholesale, and implementation will continue at pace.

An area I’d like to highlight from this discussion is how we are developing a bespoke support offer to support local transformation. Local Maternity Systems (LMS) have been asked to establish themselves by March. This will include defining geography, membership and leadership. Once formed, the Maternity Transformation Programme is committed to supporting each LMS to develop their plan to implement Better Births by October this year.

Colleagues from the national Maternity Policy team, the NHS England Regions and the Clinical Networks will come together and meet with every LMS in the next couple of months to understand the key issues facing each one, and what support they require to develop those plans. A bespoke offer of support will then be tailor-made for each LMS. This will be a particularly exciting process, as the Local Maternity Systems will be the vehicles for driving transformation for women and clinical staff at a local level.

We are already starting to see real change happening in our 7 Early Adopter LMS’s, and I can’t wait to see the plans for the others as they develop.

I was also pleased to hear the plans to fill the anticipated gap in sonography capacity to complete obstetric ultrasounds in the third trimester, which was raised at a meeting with the Secretary of State in December 2016.

Health Education England is developing a longer-term solution to address this, involving mapping the training requirements for a sonography degree at undergraduate level and commissioning a career and competence framework for sonography to create a clear sonography career pathway across clinical disciplines.

A short-term solution has also been proposed jointly by NHS England, NHS Improvement, Health Education England and the Department of Health. The shared proposal to train 200 health care professionals in sonography by mid-2018, was approved by the Secretary of State last month. Further scoping work and costings are being developed.

A final point I’d like to share is that an internal audit of the Maternity Transformation Programme was recently performed, to provide an independent assessment of whether NHS England has everything is in place to enable the successful delivery of the programme.

The overall assessment was of ‘substantial assurance’ – only one point short of ‘full assurance’ on a 4 point scale (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t get awarded very often!) This is a fantastic result, especially within only a few months of the programme launching, and it comes as no surprise as the team have been working so hard to build a solid foundation for the programme.

For my next blog, I am looking forward to sharing with you my thoughts on where we are one year on from the publication of Better Births, the Maternity Review around which the Transformation Programme is built. I’ll be reflecting on the fantastic progress so far, and looking ahead to the exciting developments planned in the coming months.

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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