NHS England’s better births – Louise Stewart, Head of West Midlands Maternity Network, NHS England

Since the creation of the NHS in 1948, the NHS has delivered more than 50 million babies.

Women giving birth today can expect to have a safer and more personalised maternity care experience, while the average baby born can expect to live into their eighties. Today mums-to-be have a midwife, who they know, available throughout their use of maternity services – care which they would not previously get on the NHS.

The vast majority of women giving birth today will choose to give birth in a hospital or maternity unit. This marks a trend which has dramatically shifted over the last 60 years when one third of pregnant women chose to give birth at home.

In the West Midlands, 71,000 babies were born in 2016. Care for these mums and babies was provided from 14 hospital trusts, with many babies being born in one  or other of those hospital sites.

The region is diverse, from urban to rural locations, a rich mix of cultures and ethnicities and big differences in household incomes. This means that there are lots of different factors which need to be considered when looking after mums-to-be and new mums.

For people starting a family in 2018, maternity services across England have never been safer with a record 88% of new mothers saying they were treated with dignity and respect throughout labour, according to the latest CQC survey.

NHS England (West Midlands) is forging ahead with introducing changes to maternity care as part of the national Maternity Transformation programme. We have six local maternity systems working in partnership; this means women, staff, local authorities and public health working together to improve local maternity care from the time people think about having a baby to afterwards as the baby grows up.

The local systems work with women and families to create care that more accurately reflects the needs of families now. This includes making sure that women and families have the right information available to make choices about their care during and after pregnancy and birth; all health and care staff who are part of a mum’s pregnancy journey have the right training and expertise to provide the best and safest care. And most importantly it means that women and their families are more directly involved in saying how they want to be cared for and to be equal partners in choosing what happens during pregnancy.