RCM comments on findings from the National Maternity and Perinatal Audit

on 11 July 2019 NMPA - National Maternity and Perinatal Audit Perinatal Mental Health

Today the findings of The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit (NMPA) have been published.

The NMPA organisational audit report was launched in 2016 and assesses maternity and neonatal services across the UK.

The NMPA uses data collected from maternity services to evaluate processes and outcomes and also identifies good professional practice and areas that may need improvement.

The NMPA audit is led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), in collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Child Health and Paediatrics (RCPCH), and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

The data collected shows how maternity and neonatal services have changed since the last survey in January 2017 up to January 2019

Commenting, Birte Harlev Lam, Executive Director of Professional Leadership at the RCM says; “The RCM is pleased to see that maternity services are making continuous and considerable efforts to improve and implement recommendations from recent reviews and initiatives.

“The results suggest that maternity and neonatal service provision is improving in a number of important areas as well as facing ongoing challenges, particularly around unwarranted variation.

“Perinatal mental health services have expanded and more women are being given the specialist psychological support they need both in pregnancy and the postnatal period. This is particularly true in England and Scotland where there has been an increase in specialist perinatal mental health midwives and in an increase in access to transitional care, so that mothers and unwell babies do not have to be separated. Separating mothers from their babies at this crucial time affects their ability to bond with their babies and impacts negatively on breastfeeding rates.”

“It is disappointing to see that smoking cessation and weight management support services have seen no improvement since 2017. This is also unsurprising as a recent survey undertaken by RCM revealed that almost 70 percent of Heads of Midwifery reported that they are without a stop smoking specialist midwife in their maternity team.

“Smoking significantly increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and sudden infant death and birth abnormalities. Smoking also damages a mother’s health and is associated with maternal risks in pregnancy, such as placental abruption and eclampsia. Evidence show that stopping smoking early in pregnancy can almost entirely prevent adverse effects and we need to be doing all we can to support women and their families to stop smoking.

“Access to electronic maternity records has improved for community midwives, but unfortunately only a low percentage of women reported being able top access their own electronic record so efforts must be increased to improve this.

“There has also been a welcomed increase in maternity services across the UK offering homebirth which ultimately improves choice for women. It’s also great to see an improvement for choice of place of birth for women, however there has been a small reduction in the number of freestanding birth centres available.

“It is also positive to see an increase in the number of consultant maternity units with an alongside midwife units in Scotland.”

The report is available on the NMPA website here.

Further data from the report on birth settings:

  • A slight increase in number of maternity sites with an obstetric unit, co-located with an alongside midwifery unit, rising from 67% to 71%, but regional variation exists.
  • The number of freestanding midwifery units went down from 95 to 91, while the long-term closures of these units increased, with a further eight closed for births from several months to more than a year.
  • Freestanding midwifery units decreased from 63 to 61 in England; from 18 to 17 in Scotland; and from 14 to 13 in Wales.
  • All trusts and boards offered homebirths.

To contact the RCM Media Relations Team 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/