In response to today’s NHS Long Term Plan, Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Adviser, NCT, said:
“It’s great news that maternity services have been prioritised by the NHS Long Term Plan. There’s a huge amount to be positive about in the plan, in particular measures to help new mothers feed their babies, more support for new and expectant parents experiencing mental health problems and steps to ensure more women receive maternity care from a midwife they know and trust, which we know is associated with improved outcomes for mothers and babies.
“However, there are a number of gaps among some otherwise excellent initiatives. On top of the welcome measures to improve maternity safety, we would like to see more targeted measures for those at greatest risk of stillbirth or dying in childbirth, such as families in poverty and women from black and ethnic minority communities. While we welcome the announcement of greater access to postnatal physiotherapy, postnatal care overall remains a neglected area of maternity services in need of attention and investment.
“We look forward to seeing the implementation plan later in the year which should translate these plans into reality.”
Continuity of care
“Support Overdue, research by NCT and the NFWI, showed that 88% of women had not met any of the midwives caring for them during labour and birth before going into labour, so continuity of carer is an area that needs to be improved. It results in better outcomes: women who received it are less likely to give birth prematurely and more likely to have more straightforward births than those receiving standard care.
“The further implementation of continuity of carer should improve both outcomes and quality of experience for mothers and babies. This is a great investment in both short- and long-term wellbeing for families.”
“The first few weeks with a new baby can be really challenging and the lack of feeding support for parents in the UK is shocking. Too many women who want to breastfeed are left struggling with no support and made to feel guilty for using formula.
“It’s good to see the recognition that there needs to be ‘much better support for breastfeeding focused on practical help that supports and empowers women, rather than pressurises them’. This is a hugely valuable investment in the future health of mothers and babies. But it’s crucial that more community support is available too, including from health visitors and GPs, as so many women stop breastfeeding after postnatal midwifery care ends.”
“We’re particularly pleased to see the importance of specialist perinatal mental health services from pre-conception to 24 months after birth is recognised, and that help for new fathers who are experiencing mental health difficulties is highlighted.
“However, there’s a missed opportunity in the failure to include specific measures to address low rates of diagnosis of new mums’ mental health problems, especially funding a six-week postnatal check for all new mothers . Nearly half of new mothers’ mental health problems are not identified by a health professional, according to NCT research. As part of our #Hidden Half campaign, we’re calling for more funding for the six-week check so that health professionals have the time to give every mother a full appointment, rather than squeezing it in with an examination of their baby.”