Midwife and health visitor care continuity takes a step forward
A new toolkit from Public Health England (PHE) to support care continuity and a better and more efficient handover of women’s care between midwives and health visitors has been published this week. The toolkit has been developed with support from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and health visitors.
Clare Livingstone, Professional Policy Advisor at the RCM, has been the College’s lead on the project. “This will be a valuable resource for midwives and health visitors in facilitating women to have the smoothest possible journey throughout and beyond their pregnancy. The point at which women’s care is transferred from midwives to health visitors, at around 10-14 days after the birth, is a critical point in that journey,” she said. “This toolkit will support a better and more efficient handover of care, joining up the two services and ensuring care continuity for women and their babies.”
The toolkit covers the whole of a woman’s pregnancy journey and sets out what is needed from both professions to achieve a smooth handover of care for women and staff. It also highlights case studies where good inter-professional work is taking place between midwives and health visitors.
“Supporting families through pregnancy and the early days with their baby is vital to giving every child the best start in life,” said Viv Bennett, the Chief Nurse at PHE. “Midwives and health visitors need to work well together in providing a seamless service. Receiving consistent information and care is central to parents’ experience, especially for breastfeeding and maternal mental health. By working together as professionals and with families, midwives and health visitors can tailor care to families’ needs, and ultimately contribute to improved child and family health outcomes.”
Alison Morton, Executive Director at the Institute of Health Visiting, commented:
“We support and welcome this new guidance from Public Health England on the care continuity between midwifery and health visiting.
“We know from our iHV annual surveys that continuity of care and building trusting relationships with parents is critical for delivering good support in the first 1001 days. Improving the quality of care for parents and their babies throughout their maternity journey, through the effective sharing of information and collaborative practice between midwifery and health visiting services, will help ensure that consistent and evidence-based information is given. Continuity of care, as well as continuity of carer (they are not the same thing), between midwifery and health visiting is crucial to ensure that health visitors provide safe and personalised care - tailored to each family’s individual needs.”
Steps that midwives and health visitors can take to foster better care continuity and inter-professional working are also outlined in the toolkit. These include creating opportunities for midwives and health visitors to meet and discuss women’s care, protected time to develop inter-professional communication, and part-time secondments to develop inter-professional teams.
“There is one issue here that must be faced though,” reflected Clare Livingstone, referring to the serious shortage of midwives and health visitors. “This is a great tool, but for this to really work effectively we need the right numbers of midwives and health visitors. There are commitments from the Government to increase the numbers and that is welcome, but without adequate staffing the aim of this toolkit, to make women’s care better, cannot be achieved in full.”
The full document ‘Achieving care continuity between midwifery and health visiting services: Principles for practice’ can be read at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/commissioning-of-public-health-services-for-children/care-continuity-between-midwifery-and-health-visiting-services-principles-for-practice.