Pregnant women are to be offered a personalised maternity budget, worth at least £3,000, to allow them to choose the care they receive.
Under the proposed scheme, women would receive advice and information regarding the services offered by local care providers. They would also be able to choose whether they give birth in a hospital, at home or a midwifery unit.
They would also be able to choose between a range of providers, allowing expectant mothers to have their routine scans nearer to their place of work while giving birth in a different facility closer to home. The budget would also allow for the use of birthing pools, hypnotherapy and one-to-one midwifery care.
The Cumberlege report, chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege and commissioned by NHS England, hopes to improve the safety and level of care for soon-to-be mothers.
The report states that, ‘Our vision for maternity services across England is for them to become safer, more personalised, kinder, professional and more family friendly; where every woman has access to information to enable her to make decisions about her care; and where she and her baby can access support that is centred around their individual needs and circumstances.’
Alongside the introduction of a more personalised care plan, the report also calls for an increased ‘continuity of carer’ to allow the mother to build a relationship; ‘safer care’ with teams working across boundaries for a speedier response; ‘better postnatal and perinatal mental health care’; and a ‘payment system’ that fairly compensates providers for delivering high care.
The reforms come in an attempt to shake-up NHS England’s maternity care after the aftermath of the inquiry at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust. The inquiry found serious and major failures that led to the deaths of 16 babies and three mothers.
In the report, Cumberlege wrote, “We heard that many women are not being offered real choice in the services they can access, and are too often being told what to do, rather than being given information to make their own decisions. Hospital services are at capacity with some running at 100% occupancy too much of the time. Yet some community-based services are struggling to survive, while some women are unable to choose the service they want because it sits on the wrong side of an administrative boundary.”
Ruth May, Nursing Director Designate of NHS Improvement said, “We welcome Baroness Julia Cumberlege’s report and will support the NHS to find ways to provide more effective, quality care to families.”
“This valuable work sets out how the NHS can develop services to provide women with higher quality, more personalised care, as well as how to improve postnatal and prenatal mental health services and patient safety.”
To find out more about the reforms, download the report here.