The Government’s plans to halve stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in new-born babies by 2025 are a ‘very positive step’, the RCM have said.
The government has announced a major redesign of neonatal services, led by an expansion in staff numbers – with more expert neonatal nurses and specialists, and new roles for allied health professionals.
The measures also include digitising the paper child health record known to parents as the ‘red book’, as well as piloting the digitisation of maternity records for 100,000 women by the end of 2019 to help women make choices about their care in a more convenient way.
‘The drive to reduce stillbirths is again a very positive step’ said Gill Walton Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). ‘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.’
Other plans improved accommodation for critically ill new-born babies and support from dedicated care co-ordinators, wider availability of physiotherapy for the one in three women who experience incontinence after childbirth, and asking all maternity services to deliver an evidence-based infant feeding programme in 2019 to 2020, such as the UNICEF Baby Friendly initiative.
‘Great care also means safe care, but sadly too many women are still suffering the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child. We are committed to saving 4,000 lives by 2025 by halving stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious brain injuries in new-borns,’ said Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary. ‘These new measures to improve maternity care, funded by taxpayers as part of the NHS long-term plan, will mean hundreds of thousands of new families get the very best care.