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Sweeping changes to women’s health care urged

Friday July 15th, 2011

Radical changes to the structure of maternity services and care of women in the UK were proposed yesterday.

The report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists , entitled High Quality Women’s Health Care: A proposal for change, says more women should be cared for in midwife-led units.

The number of hospital maternity units should also be cut, the organisation says, so that women can have access to 24-hour senior obstetric care.

And doctors should be taking a "life course" approach to women's health care, the report says.

It calls for "every opportunity" to be taken to promote health and lifestyle rather than a "constant firefight" against disease and ill health, stressing the needs of an ageing population.

The report recommends: "Pressures on the workforce due to the Working Time Regulation and trainee numbers will need different service configuration and will lead to a reduction in the number of medically staffed units to ensure a safe service."

The RCOG Expert Advisory Group also calls for the appointment of a national clinical director in women’s health.

Chair of the Expert Advisory Group, Dame Joan Higgins, said: “Women’s health services need to be planned in a way that enables integration across different levels of care, delivered in partnership between local health and social care services and the voluntary sector.

“This network of providers should ensure that women experience co-ordinated and appropriate care which meets their needs.”

College president Dr Tony Falconer said: "The life-course approach will ensure that at every opportunity, the health service can be there to give advice and improve a woman's health irrespective of her situation or her social background.

"Adopting such an approach to delivering health care will provide women with consistent information from a young age, enabling them to make better decisions about their own health."

Royal College of Midwives general secretary Cathy Warwick welcomed the report’s support for midwife-led care for low-risk pregnancies.

“It clearly supports local care for women who do not need specialist support and supports midwife- led maternity units, informed choice for women about options for childbirth, and women-centred care models,” she said. “The RCM thoroughly supports and endorses all these aspects of the report.”

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said while it welcomed the proposals, they did not go far enough.

“Maternity services would be better provided in Maternity Trusts set up very like the current Mental Health Trusts. This strengthening of the network to organisation status would, we believe, be more certain of providing the benefits outlined in the RCOG report.”

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | NHS | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Womenís Health & Gynaecology

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