NCT Response: Panorama

Released on: 25 July 2011

NCT demands system changes to ensure midwives can deliver safe care and positive experiences

“The findings investigated by the Panorama programme are shocking, but not surprising.  NCT has for years been highlighting the poor experience that around 1/3 of women have during their birth.  In England, 22% of women are left alone, while in labour or shortly afterwards, at a time when this worries them. 

"Women want to be - and feel - safe during their birth of their baby and they want the experience of having a baby to be a positive one.  There is agreement now that this is what the service should provide, and policy including the recent Midwifery 2020 report calls for this to be the case.

"Currently the maternity services do not do this.  The service ‘knows what it needs to do’ but fails to do it.  We recognise workforce shortages play a part in this, and need to be addressed, but greater numbers are not the only solution. Within the system are excellent professionals trying their best with the best possible intentions.  Therefore NCT draws the conclusion that the system is at fault.  Some of the changes proposed in the amended Health & Social Care Bill will have a limited positive impact in England but NCT would like to see some key changes specifically to the NHS maternity systems.

"We call for the creation of ‘maternity trusts’, with their own appropriate systems of governance, to be developed from the foundations of maternity networks. The requirements of a service that principally provides care for healthy women and babies are essentially different from other health services, and this needs to be recognised at a high level of management and budget-holding. The work of professionals within a trust may be spread over a number of locations but multi-professional teams will work together and train together, within such a trust, so they function flexibly and dynamically both in day-to-day situations and in an emergency.

"In addition, a practical and suitable financial régime should be in place, designed so that there is no disincentive associated with increasing numbers of normal births, home births or births in out-of-hospital settings. The short- and long-term benefits to women’s health of all these approaches to care should be well recognised by those working in the finance area, and all systems should be geared towards promoting normality and minimising any intervention unless there is clinical need.

"We believe that if NHS does this then the good people with positive intentions will have a system that they can operate within to make sure that a safe and fulfilling experience of birth is possible for every woman.”