Minister's vision of quality maternity care in Wales

Baby being kissed (generic) The minister says she wants to improve the quality of care for women and babies

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Plans have been set out to improve care for women and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth in Wales.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said all women should receive safe, high quality treatment, dignity and respect.

Ms Griffiths warned health boards they could not let services "drift" by failing to make changes.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said Wales had suffered variable standards of care in the past but this was a "significant opportunity".

The minister outlined the strategy during a visit to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

"Our maternity service is already one we can be proud of, but there are improvements to be made," she said.

"My vision is a service that promotes pregnancy and childbirth as an event of social and emotional significance where women and their families are treated with dignity and respect."

MATERNITY SERVICES 'VISION'

  • The main priorities include:
  • Organising maternity care to meet the needs of women and their babies
  • Protecting and improving the health and well-being of mothers and their babies
  • Ensuring pregnancy and childbirth is a safe, fulfilling, life-enhancing experience
  • Source: Welsh Government

Making her announcement during a visit to the midwifery-led unit at the University Hospital in Cardiff, Ms Griffiths added that "every woman in Wales, irrespective of her location, social background, circumstances or ethnicity" should have access to and receive "safe, high quality care".

Healthy lifestyles before, during and after pregnancy, and maternity care will also be promoted.

"Local health boards will determine how services are organised at local level to achieve this vision, and I expect them to be open and to work with communities as they plan changes," she added.

"Safety, quality, recruitment and cost must be at the heart of any changes."

She added that local health boards would have to determine how services are organised at local level to "achieve this vision".

"I expect them to be open and to work with communities as they plan changes."

Safety, quality and recruitment and cost must be at the heart of the changes, and must be set against the "perceived losses of local services and convenience", and "social and political considerations.

"Local health boards cannot allow a service to drift into lack of safety and sustainability which may happen if they do not make changes," she said.

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the charity National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said the plan for reform was a "significant opportunity".

Education

"In the past, Wales has demonstrated some excellent practice - notably a thriving home birth service in rural areas - but also suffered from variable standards of care with some excessively high intervention rates," she added.

The NCT said it strongly supported the call for maternity care to extend beyond the NHS service into schools, social services and the voluntary sector.

And it urged the Welsh Government to consider "enabling robust cross-disciplinary local networks" for maternity and early years services.

Ms Duff said: "The new service will require enough midwives in place, both immediately and in the future, to deliver to all families in Wales. Education of sufficient numbers of midwives is a priority."

The Conservatives' shadow health minister Darren Millar said the statement fell "well short of promising to retain consultant-led maternity services in North Wales' hospitals".

"This will come as a disappointment to expectant mothers and families who depend on the services of their local maternity unit," he added.

"I fear that this is just a smokescreen for wholesale reorganisation of services which will result in a reduction in the number of hospitals providing consultant-led maternity services.

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones called on the Welsh Government to rule out any downgrading of local maternity services.

"It is hugely important that maternity services are available as locally as possible," she said.

"Having to travel further for consultant led services will lead to increased risk to the health of mothers and their babies and that is simply not acceptable."

A Welsh Government spokesman said the "principles" of the strategy were developed by the previous Labour-Plaid coalition government.

He said the safety and quality of maternity services were key, and that health boards would work with clinicians and patients to come up with safe and sustainable proposals.

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