The perfect storm for a digital revolution in maternity care

By Hermione Jackson, Digital Midwife Project Advisor on 18 June 2021 Maternity Services NHS NHS Digital

We’ve just received the long-awaited news that maternity services in England are going to receive a much needed £52 million investment in digital technologies. From a survey of Digital Midwives, conducted last summer, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) found that a lack of finances was one of the leading reasons that their service had not improved their digital offer since the Digital Maturity Assessment was completed in 2018.

However, as some services have been able to significantly demonstrate the benefits of digital transformation, a repeat digital maturity assessment will be required to ensure that these funds go to the services that are most in need of a leg up now. This assessment is due to take place in early July 2021 and will shed new light on the current digital state of maternity care.

The investment has also highlighted the need for digital technology to not just benefit how midwives provide care, but also the importance of women having access to their electronic records to be more informed and support decisions around their care. This was identified in the Better Births Five Year Forward View report in 2016, which highlighted that 90 per cent of women would like to access their records digitally.

The RCM completed a survey of our members at the end of May 2021, which highlighted that the majority of midwives felt confident using digital technology in their clinical practice and with women. Although some felt that they needed further support with women’s electronic records and digital health information sources.

The midwives surveyed also felt least confident when technology lets them down or when they have issues with remote connectivity. This investment will hopefully ensure that midwives get the right technology to meet their needs, especially when practicing in remote and rural locations.   

This funding boost will drive digital transformation in those maternity services that need it most, but services must also ensure that midwives are given the appropriate support and training to make the most of this new technology. The RCM have produced Electronic Record Keeping Guidelines and audit tool to support midwives in maintaining excellent record keeping standards with these new digital records.