NCT response: Maternity Networks

Released on: 20 July 2011

The NHS White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, published 12 July, set out the concept of maternity networks as a fresh approach to the structure of care for pregnant women and new families.

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of NCT, has responded by addressing MPs - including Anne Milton, Minister for Public Health - and guests of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity, with a call for debate on how the proposed system will work.

NCT, the UK’s largest parenting charity, has now issued a paper ‘Innovative, integrated and in the interest of families: the Maternity Network approach’ describing a vision of the new maternity networks, showing how families will get the best care from committed professionals enabled to work in a flexible and streamlined structure.

NCT is urging all those involved in maternity care to take part in the debate on maternity networks so that moves to establish the new structures can go rapidly forward.
NCT’s overarching approach to childbirth emphasises the significance of labour and birth for women, babies and the wider family; the important roles played by midwives and obstetricians in providing optimal maternity care; and the value of continuity of carer and individualised care. The new maternity networks will give a unique opportunity for these values to be enshrined in the service. 
To obtain a copy of NCT’s paper: Innovative, integrated and in the interest of families: the Maternity Network approach, please email your request to at

Maternity Network Approach

NCT believes that birth should and can be a positive experience for women, and make a major contribution to public health, the well-being of families and the next generation. According to recommendations in the NCT paper, Innovative, integrated and in the interest of families: the Maternity Network approach, the networks would:

• offer the opportunity to create bodies that focus on providing accessible care across a number of maternity units and community midwifery services, thus separating their management from the parts of the NHS that deal with illness
• replace the Payment by Results system, which is really a ‘payment by activity’ approach that provides incentive for greater intervention in births, with a system of payment based on outcomes (Payment by Outcome) for mothers and babies
• expand opportunities for independent accredited providers to work within the network, where this is for the benefit of women and families, especially those in challenging circumstances or in particular need of individualised care
• put midwives and obstetricians, along with user representatives, on a network board so that key strategic decisions are based on expert knowledge 
• involve users, with representation from a broad range of families, at every level of the service in design, monitoring and evaluation of care
• provide information - evidence-based, written from a parents’ perspective and available in accessible formats for all groups - to enable parents to make choices which work for them.