On November 11 2012, the Department of Health announced a £25 million fund to improve birthing environments. Maternity services will be able to apply for new funds to improve their maternity environments as long as there is evidence that women have been asked about the changes they want in their local areas. They can bid for ensuite facilities, rooms where dads can stay overnight or a wider range of facilities available like birthing pools.
Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Adviser for NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said:
“Ensuring that maternity services are designed, developed and maintained with on-going input from women and their families is key to providing a service that is accessible and attractive to users, and will be trusted and valued by expectant and new parents. NCT has been a driving force over years in lobbying for improved environments for birth – inside and outside hospitals - and therefore we welcome not only the Department of Health’s increased funding for facilities but the associated proviso that changes are made according to the views and wishes of parents. Maternity services liaison committees (MSLCs) are the ideal multidisciplinary forum for such discussion and these should be supported and maintained throughout other system changes so that contacts and communication channels are not lost.
“NCT is in accord with the royal colleges and other researchers who have confirmed recently that healthy women are safe to give birth outside obstetric units and have good outcomes and high satisfaction rates after birth in midwife-led birth centres. The numbers of such units should be expanded to allow this option for all women who do not need hospital care. At the same time, women who do have to receive care in hospital owing to higher-risk circumstances should have the same opportunities of access to birthing pools, comfortable rooms and facilities for partners to stay with them after the birth if they wish.”