New maternity package ‘to make NHS best place in the world to give birth’

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A major new package of measures for maternity services will make the NHS “the best place in the world to give birth”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The package includes measures designed to help meet the Government’s target of halving stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in new-born babies by 2025.

A redesign of neonatal services will see additional expert nurses and specialists for newborns, while up to 285,000 new mothers will be given improved access to post-natal physiotherapy.

Meanwhile, the traditional red book issued by the NHS for each new baby will be digitised, making information about the child’s medical history available on parents’ phones.

Unveiling the plans, Mr Hancock said they would come as part of the Government’s promise of a £20.5 billion per year increase in funding for the NHS in England by 2023/24.

“Having a baby is one of the best moments of our lives, so I want our NHS to be the best place in world to give birth,” he said.

“Today, we will take steps to ensure every expectant mother is supported – from pregnancy to birth to those critical first months of parenthood – with a comprehensive package of personalised, high quality support.”

The new package will support maternity services in the NHS in England (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Sadly, too many women are still suffering the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child,” he said. “We are committed to saving 4,000 lives by 2025 by halving stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in newborns.

“These new measures to improve maternity care, funded by taxpayers as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, will mean hundreds of thousands of new families get the very best care.”

Plans were announced earlier this year to train more than 3,000 extra midwives over the next four years.

The new package includes:

– Improved accommodation and support for critically ill babies from 2021/22, with plans to make more intensive care cots available.

– More widely available NHS physiotherapy for the one in three women who experience incontinence after childbirth, with 285,000 women to receive help by 2023/24.

– A requirement for each maternity service to deliver an accredited, evidence-based infant feeding programme in 2019/20.

The package was announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Jonathan Brady/PA)

But she warned: “Implementation of these changes cannot be done on a shoestring. It requires significant ring-fenced investment.

“Successful implementation will need real investment in the recruitment and retention of midwives, in training, project management, equipment and physical environments to create the proposed ‘community hubs’ and provide women with positive local midwife-led care settings.

“We call on the UK Government to follow the lead of the Scottish Government in committing funding that is targeted at the implementation of the proposals in the maternity policy.”

Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We very much welcome the Government’s announcement of a new maternity package as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

“This will help to ensure that the NHS is the safest place for women to give birth and for babies to have the best possible start in life.”

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