RCM responds to new maternity package announcement by Department of Health

on 02 January 2019 Maternity Services Department of Health Midwifery Continuity of Carer - MCOC Safe high quality care

Today (Sunday 30th December) Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has announced a new NHS maternity package for England.

The package of measures includes initiatives to improve safety, quality and continuity of care, which aims to halve stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in new-born babies by 2025.

Responding to the announcement Gill Walton Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:“This adds to the number of initiatives from the Government to improve the safety and care of women, babies and their families.

"The commitment to continuity of carer – that is women seeing the same midwife or small group of midwives throughout and after their pregnancy – is very important as the evidence shows that women have a safer and better pregnancy and birth when they get this continuity.* Implementing continuity of carer in maternity services in England represents a major shift in the way that services are organised and in the way that midwives and other members of the maternity team work. 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. The pledge to improve areas of postnatal support is also vital as this is an area that we know is often experienced less positively by women.

“The promise of 3000 more midwife training places for England – announced earlier this year -  is another positive step. The Government will need to work hard to ensure that these midwives get jobs in our NHS when they qualify and then feel supported and appreciated. We need to improve retention rates as we know midwives and maternity services remain under significant pressure. Many midwives leave because they face burn-out due to the demands being places on them.

“The drive to reduce stillbirths is again a very positive step. However, this must be seen in a wider context than the steps in this announcement. For example reducing smoking in pregnancy is one of the most important things we can do to begin reducing stillbirth rates, but we are still seeing cuts to public health budgets including smoking cessation services. The overall health of women and our population also needs addressing including issues such as the rising levels of obesity. There is a pressing need to focus on many of the root causes and cutting public health budgets simply acts against this.

"We will engage in the planned review of neonatal services and will seek to ensure that any changes to neonatal services reflect best evidence and the needs of newborns and their families.        

“On the whole a welcome and positive announcement but much more needs to be done to ensure we have the safest and best maternity services.”


Notes to Editors

  *Read the RCM Continuity Care of Position Statement published in November 2018. Also see Cochrane Review – Midwife-led continuity models of care compared with other models of care for women during pregnancy, birth and early parenting – published April 2016

  *Read the RCM guidance on ‘The contribution of continuity of midwifery care to high quality maternity care’.

 *The RCM also launched a Continuity of Carer Board Game in October. This aims to support midwives and maternity services to move towards more continuity of care and carer. See the media release on the game

To contact the RCM’s media office call 020-7312 3456 or email [email protected].


Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.