Healthwatch Hillingdon’s response to NHS England’s National Maternity Review

The National Maternity Review was commissioned by NHS England, following the Morecambe Bay Investigation into the serious failures of clinical care in the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital.

The review, chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, primarily outlines the importance of women being able to make choices about their maternity care, and providing a safe service for mothers and their babies. Through a number of proposals it looks to build on current good practice and develop maternity services which are well led, women- centred and without regional variations in quality.

Graham Hawkes, Chief Executive Officer of Healthwatch HIllingdon, said:

“We welcome the review and are delighted that it makes recommendations to shape a future maternity service that puts women in control and at the centre of their care,  throughout their pregnancy and the post-natal period. It is also pleasing to see the focus placed on raising the awareness of maternal mental health, something that we have been advocating for, across North West London, for some time.  

One of the significant proposals of the review is to give women access to an NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget. Whilst we embrace women having a choice, we would caution how the more vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the community are supported to make the most effective use of their budget. Without adequate advise to make informed choices, we could find a widening of health inequalities and inequality in access to maternity care services."

With Ealing Maternity Unit closing under Shaping a Healthier Future, the quality and safety of maternity care continues to be in the spotlight locally. We see the call in the review for women to have greater continuity from midwives as important, but this should also be aligned with the 168 hours of comprehensive consultant cover on maternity wards, that we have been guaranteed by the SaHF Clinical Board.

The review also places a strong emphasis towards home births, however only 1 in 10 women currently say they would choose a home birth, and for Hillingdon and our neighbouring boroughs, the reality is only 1 in 100 births took place outside of a birthing unit last year. With home birthing being routinely offered locally, it would seem that mothers require further assurances before choosing to have a home birth.

The review urges women to play their part in creating the maternity services they want, by voicing their opinions and challenging those providing the services. We would passionately echo that sentiment. Work by Healthwatch show that over half of women who have used a maternity service want to give feedback to help improve services, yet two thirds don’t know how. We appreciate that the review looks to address this and encourage an emphasis on new methods, which avoid the over-reliance on surveys.

At Healthwatch Hillingdon we are always very keen to hear from our residents and are currently undertaking a focused project to listen to women’s experience of maternity care at Hillingdon Hospital. Women can tell us about their recent experiences of maternity services by calling us on 01895 272997, or emailing:

As Baroness Cumberlege states, maternity service have improved over the last 20 years, but as she points out there are a number of recommendations made in previous maternity reviews that have not been thoroughly implemented.  We must not dwell in the past, recognise that this is a new opportunity and all we work together, to ensure these new proposals are realised.

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