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Scheme to improve maternity safety announced

​A plan to ‘dramatically’ increase the safety of mothers and their babies during birth has been announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt

A plan to ‘dramatically’ increase the safety of mothers and their babies during birth has been announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The proposals will provide resources for trusts to improve maternity safety. Boosts to funding include £8million for multi-disciplinary training, with at least £40,000 available to each NHS Trust in England. There will also be a £250,000 maternity safety innovation fund to pilot new ideas for improving safety during birth.

‘The plan’s focus on issues such as improving maternity service teamwork, sharing successful strategies, openness and transparency, and on learning when things go wrong is absolutely right,' said Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

A package of publications and resources for maternity and neonatal teams to avoid unnecessary separation of mother and baby is also scheduled to be released in January 2017. The plans also state that all Trusts will have one obstetrician and one midwife jointly responsible for improving maternity safety.

'These are areas where improvements can almost certainly be made without significant additional resources,' added Ms Warwick. 'A lot of work is already going on but there is more to be done and to achieve that all parts of the system must work together.'

According to the action plan, the UK's stillbirth rate remains unacceptably high when compared to other similar countries, with the UK ranked 24th out of 49 high-income countries. Additionally, the UK's annual rate of stillbirth reduction of 1.4% is much slower than many other countries, such as the Netherlands which achieved a rate of 6.8% in 2015.

‘Our NHS maternity staff do a fantastic job under huge pressure. But even though we have made much progress, our stillbirth rates are still among the highest in Western Europe and many on the frontline say there is still too much of a blame culture when things go wrong - often caused by fear of litigation or worry about damage to reputation and careers,’ said Mr Hunt.

The Department of Health has also launched the ‘Our Chance’ campaign, to help women have safer pregnancies. The campaign, created in conjunction with national charities Best Beginnings and Sands, aims to improve education and awareness of factors that can create risk during pregnancy. It also aims to reach out to young people who are planning to start a family, as they may be unaware of aspects of pregnancy.

‘We are delighted to be jointly leading this ground-breaking project, which is the culmination of many years of work with the Department of Health,’ said Clea Harmer, chief executive at Sands. ‘We’re particularly excited about reaching younger people, to help them have a safer pregnancy whether they are planning on having a family now or in the future