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Insight

New toolkit to 'smooth' women's maternity experience is meaningless without proper funding

Arti Shah
14/06/2021
A new toolkit designed in conjunction with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and rolled out by Public Health England (PHE) aims to provide better care and support to pregnant women and new mothers.

According to the RCM website, it will generate a more efficient handover of women’s care between midwives and health visitors to help women 'have the smoothest possible journey throughout and beyond their pregnancy'.

Generally, women's care is transferred from midwives to health visitors at around 10-14 days after the birth and the new advice will better 'join up' the two services to provide continuity of care, as well as continuity of carer between midwifery and health visiting 'tailored to each family’s individual needs'.

The toolkit highlights for improvement creating opportunities for midwives and health visitors to meet and discuss women’s care, protected time to develop inter-professional communication, and part-time secondments to develop inter-professional teams.

In terms of the cases the medical negligence team specialises in, any focus on the health of a new mother and baby is welcome, particularly where a child is born with health issues, such as hip dysplasia or Erb's Palsy which are often diagnosed late or not at all, leading to serious problems as the child grows up.

Certainly where a catastrophic birth injury has occurred, such that leads to serious disabilities including cerebral palsy, families are all too often left alone to cope with a burden of care that is unacceptable as local social services struggle to provide support.

Clare Livingstone, Professional Policy Advisor at the RCM, is absolutely correct in her comment that however great the new tool is, it is meaningless if the current, catastrophic shortage of midwives and health visitors means in reality it cannot be implemented.

As she says, for the tool to work effectively, we need more properly trained midwives and health visitors and fully funded midwifery service in all NHS hospitals.

Without adequate staffing, launching a toolkit that is effectively a public relations exercise to appease concerns about maternity failings is akin to applying a soggy sticking plaster to a gaping wound.

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