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The NHS is changing the way information is shared between women and their midwives as RCM's Rachel Scanlan explains

Rachel Scanlan - Practice and Standards Professional Advisor
10 October, 2018

The NHS is changing the way information is shared between women and their midwives as RCM's Rachel Scanlan explains

A new standard has been published to support the introduction of digital maternity records that will ensure that record information is consistent and can be shared more easily across healthcare services in England in the future. As part of the national plans to improve maternity services, the NHS is changing the way information is shared between women, their midwives, doctors and other members of the health care team. The first step in this process is to standardise the information held in digital maternity records.

As part of the national plans to improve maternity services across the country, the way we share information about care is changing. To deliver the best care possible to mothers and their babies, it’s essential that we offer joined-up services that can communicate with each other.  

A new maternity record standard developed by the Professional Record Standards Body has been published to support this goal. Detailing all the information that needs to be shared in a digital maternity record, once implemented, the standard will ensure that information is consistent and can be shared more easily across health and care services in England.

Information sharing between different NHS and social care services has always been a challenge for midwives, and it’s something that can have a serious impact on care. For example, unless we get the right information from GPs in a timely way a woman’s care can be delayed or it can mean women have to repeat themselves when they talk about their care history. Important or sensitive information can also be missed, which can have a detrimental impact on someone’s care.

As midwives we want to maximise our opportunities to offer the best care and spot potential problems before they happen, meaning we need the full picture of a woman’s health before, during and immediately after her pregnancy. Mental health can be a particularly sensitive topic among women, and if they are seeing a range of midwives they may not feel comfortable disclosing this information at appointments.

Some women might not feel that it is relevant to mention a period of anxiety and depression in their teen years, even though it could impact their mood and mental health during and after pregnancy. But if midwives and other care professionals have access to that information digitally, they will be able to adapt care accordingly, offering a more personalised service for women which is better for them and their baby. To give great care, we need to be able to have honest and open conversations with women, and good information sharing helps to support this. It’s also useful for us to have access to any sensitive information, such as the death of a past baby or a miscarriage, so that we can make sure we approach conversations carefully and speak to the women we work with bearing their history in mind. Improving transfers of information will mean that any problems are more likely to be flagged up quickly, which makes the process better for women and could even be life-saving.

By supporting collaborative working through the use of standardised digital records, we can ensure that services join up, making care more efficient and safer for both women and their babies. It also means that women themselves will have access to their notes, without having to carry around heavy folders full of notes that can be misplaced or left at home. This gives them the opportunity to be actively involved in their own care, managing appointments and other elements of their own care where necessary.

Implementing a digital maternity care record is much more than a compliance exercise- it’s essential for the future of safe and effective maternity care. Our role as midwives is to ensure that our teams and other services we work with recognise the importance of digital records, and take the necessary steps to put them into action. For more information on the standard and how it can be used to improve care, please contact info@theprsb.org.

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