First private company to win maternity care contract
Posted: 7 December 2011 by Rob Dabrowski
There are privatisation fears after an NHS trust became the first to pay a private company to provide maternity care.
One to One Midwives - from left Jeanette Jones and Joanne Parkington
NHS Wirral has signed a three-year deal with One to One, following a pilot scheme to provide services to women in the local area.
Women opting to go with One to One will be provided with a midwife who sees them through their antenatal care, birth and postnatal care.
It is an alternative to the NHS services, but One to One midwives will still be able to go into NHS hospitals to deliver babies.
Cathy Warwick, RCM chief executive, said: ‘The vast majority of maternity care is provided in the NHS and the RCM believes that this should continue to be the case.
‘The RCM understands that the One to One midwifery practice is providing continuity of midwifery care to a small group of women.
‘The RCM supports models of midwifery care that offer women continuity and which can improve health outcomes for the mother and baby.
‘However, such models of care can also be offered on the NHS and much more effort should be made by policy-makers to ensure this is the case, including ensuring adequate midwifery staffing and fair remuneration for staff.
‘The RCM would also argue that it is vital to the safety of women and babies that any new model of maternity service provision offered under the new “any qualified provider” option is closely integrated with NHS maternity services to ensure safe transfer of care, when this is necessary. In the case of One to One, the RCM believes that such integration is in place.’
Cathy added evaluation will be ‘very important’ and the RCM wants to be closely involved in this and is seeking discussions with One to One.
Joanne Parkington, founder and clinical director of One to One, said the news is probably the ‘biggest thing to happen in midwifery’ since 1902 – when state regulation was established.
‘We are thrilled that Wirral PCT has chosen to award One to One the contract to deliver our maternity care service to mothers-to-be in Wirral,’ she said.
‘The pilot and now the full contract are quite simply the first of their kind in England and Wales.
‘We believe they are the biggest thing to happen in midwifery since The Midwives Act, more than 100 years ago.
She added: ‘For the first time, the NHS is able to give women choice in their maternity care.
‘It will also relieve the pressure on the existing NHS system and introduce a specialised service for teenagers and the most vulnerable.’
One to One is already looking to expand, and plans to develop similar relationships with trusts across the North West and then England and Wales as a whole.
Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, said the move was evidence of ‘pressing full steam ahead with the privatisation of NHS’.
He continued: ‘Unite is very concerned that as private companies take over more and more services in the NHS, the profit motive will take priority over patient care – and that the pay and employment conditions of NHS staff, such as midwives and maternity staff, will be seriously eroded over time.’
‘In five years time, who is to say there won’t be a scale of charges for some maternity services at this very pivotal, and often traumatic, moment in a women’s life – giving birth.’
An NHS Wirral spokesperson said: 'One to One Northwest provides an opportunity for midwives to offer a different style of care from hospital based maternity units, free at the point of delivery.
'NHS Wirral continues to contract with local hospital based maternity services providers.
‘Therefore, women are free to choose the type of service and location of birth which they feel best meets their needs.'