Putting Mothers And Babies First - New Vision For Maternity Services

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For the first time, mothers-to-be will have a guarantee that the NHS will provide them with a full range of birthing choices - including home births - and a midwife they know and trust to care for them.

Launched today, 'Maternity Matters' , the new maternity strategy, has been developed in close consultation with key professionals from the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, other royal colleges, and the voluntary sector.

The strategy sets out a new national choice guarantee. By the end of 2009, women will be able to have:

- choice of how to access maternity care, women will be able to go directly to a midwife or via a doctor

- choice of type of antenatal care - women will be able to choose between midwifery care or care led by both doctors and midwives

- choice of place of birth - depending on their medical history and circumstances, women and their partners will be able to choose between home births, or giving birth in a midwifery unit or with midwives and doctors in hospital

- choice of place of postnatal care - women will be able to chose how and where to access postnatal care.

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Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "There is nothing more important for any family than bringing a new baby into the world."We have carefully listened and will respond to what women and their families have told us they want from maternity services. We have also listened to the professionals, especially midwives and obstetricians, to ensure that the service will be safe. 'Maternity Matters' is the result of that process.

"Our commitment set out today is to deliver "gold standard" maternity services for women. In practice, this will mean that care is designed around the needs of women and their partners from the very beginning of pregnancy through to providing much better and more personal post-natal care.

"The new plan offers minimum guarantees about the level of services that women should expect and which will be used as levers to drive up standards across the country to the levels of the very best.

"We know from a recent survey on maternity services that more than four out of five women described the staff that looked after them as "supportive". We want to build on this so that women truly feel they have a world class standard of service offered to them during their whole pregnancy and that they feel supported, listened to and in control."

Professor Allan Templeton, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said: "The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists welcomes the publication of Maternity Matters and sees this as an opportunity to bring back the spotlight to maternity care in this country. The College will do all it can to implement these recommendations and, through increasing consultant presence, help to ensure that mothers have a normal, safe and satisfying experience in pregnancy and delivery."

Dame Karlene Davis, General Secretary, Royal College of Midwives: "I happily congratulate the Government for its commitment today to this ambitious plan for maternity services.

"We urgently need to turn the plans into reality. The hard work starts now as midwives and others translate this blueprint into real change for every woman. To make that happen, NHS decision-makers in every local area must deliver enough midwives and enough investment in maternity services - and they must make a start on that now."

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said, "The NCT is delighted to see the emphasis on providing choice, especially choice of place of birth and direct access to a midwife. This along with providing women with a midwife they know and trust will make it easier for all women to have the kind of care that will improve their chance of a normal birth, while making sure that medical services are available for the minority that need them. This marks a huge step forwards and gives much needed emphasis on emotional support and empowering parents during one of the most important events in their lives."

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