All expectant mothers are to be given the same midwife throughout their pregnancy in a £40 million NHS promise.
Maternity deaths are expected to fall by 50 per cent after thousands more expectant mothers will be offered a named midwife to guide them through pregnancy.
To coincide with International Day of the Midwife 2019 on Sunday, the NHS has said that funding to transform maternity services will be doubled this year to £40 million.
A key element of this support will be to give women access to the same midwife or small team of midwives during pregnancy, the birth of their child and post birth.
Currently it is not uncommon for a woman to see a different midwife at all nine or ten of her antenatal consultations, and then a further new member of staff at the birth. Continuity of carer means women don’t have to repeat their personal story, which sometimes may be an upsetting personal experience.
The government hopes that over a third of women should benefit from the new plans by March next year, rising to more than half by 2021.
The continuity of care plan will be prioritised for those women and unborn children who would benefit from it the most, including those who have complex medical needs or are from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Evidence shows that for these groups in particular, a long-term relationship with a midwife can help reduce pre-term births, hospital admissions, and the need for intervention during labour, as well as improving the experiences of both pregnancy and childbirth for women.
The NHS Long Term Plan sets out an ambition to give every child the best start in life, beginning at conception, and this extra investment in midwives to enhance the care they can provide to mothers is central to how we will achieve that important goal.
The new funding will be used to reduce the rates of stillbirth, neonatal death, maternal death and brain injury during birth by 20 per cent by the end of 2020/21, and 50 per cent by 2025.
The number of full time equivalent midwives working in NHS hospitals and community services has grown by over 3,000 over the last decade, to 21,967 in January 2019, an increase of 16 per cent.
NHS maternity care includes all antenatal, birth and post-natal care. It is provided free of charge to women who are normally resident in the UK, citizens of the EEA with medical insurance and other women in special circumstances.
Women falling outside these groups may be asked to pay for their care, but will not be refused treatment if they are unable to pay at the time.
Antenatal care usually costs the taxpayer between £1,590 and £4,233. A birth without complications, resulting in the shortest possible stay in hospital costs around £3,282 and postnatal care can cost around £1,200.
The NHS hopes to introduce a range of measures to build on the success of the ‘We are the NHS’ recruitment campaign. Local programmes to improve retention and welcome former midwives back into work have so far been rolled out.