Hewitt promises more choice for expectant mothers by end of 2009

Title: Hewitt promises more choice for expectant mothers by end of 2009.

Description:

By the end of 2009, every pregnant woman in England will be guaranteed the full range of choices about how and where to give birth, Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, promised yesterday.

Content:

Trusts are told to estimate and meet home birth demand. Pledges not reconcilable with cutbacks, say Tories. By the end of 2009, every pregnant woman in England will be guaranteed the full range of choices about how and where to give birth, Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, promised yesterday. She committed the government to a drastic improvement in NHS maternity services, but could not say how many extra midwives would be needed or how much the fuller service would cost. She told health authorities and trusts to work out the details and make decisions about how many hospitals would have to close maternity departments as consultant-led services are consolidated into fewer hi-tech specialist centres. She sought to quash speculation that she wanted maternity support workers to take the place of midwives when a mother went into labour. “If you have a baby at home or indeed in a midwifery-led unit, it is only a professionally qualified midwife who can supervise that birth,” she said. The health secretary gave a quadruple guarantee. By the end of 2009, women would have the:

· choice of how to access maternity care – via a doctor or going directly to a midwife;
· choice of midwives or doctors to provide care during pregnancy;
· choice between a home birth, birth in a midwifery unit or with midwives and doctors in hospital, subject to safety considerations and medical history;
· choice of where to get postnatal care.

She said a few areas were coming close to delivering these guarantees, including Torbay in Devon and parts of London served by Queen Charlotte and Chelsea hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ foundation trust. Home births accounted for at least 10% of deliveries in those areas, compared with a national average of 2%. “There are clearly far more women out there who would like to have a home birth and could do so safely, but aren’t at the moment getting that option,” she said. The government was asking local NHS organisations to estimate unmet demand for home births and work to satisfy it, but there would be no national target.
Ms Hewitt claimed every NHS facility was safe. But she said inequalities across England were “shocking”. Women living in families where both partners were unemployed were 20 times more likely to die in labour. Single mothers were three times more likely to die and women living in deprived areas 45% more likely.

The health secretary said the NHS had to give a higher priority to maternity services. Funding would come out of the extra £8bn allocated to the NHS for 2007-08 and smaller increases expected over the following years. The maternity guarantee was “a national promise, but it has to be delivered locally”, she said. Dame Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives,
warned that the NHS would have to recruit 1,000 extra full time midwives by 2009 and 3,000 by 2012 to implement the strategy. Andrew Lansley, the Conservative shadow health secretary, said Ms Hewitt had failed to reconcile her promises with closures or cutbacks at 43 maternity services and an increasing shortage of midwives.

Source:

http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,2049605,00.html

Disclaimer:

Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

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