Monday, 4 August 2008

Maternity services review

Since 2006 there has been an ongoing review of services for birth and the newborn across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. The review is currently asking for feed-back from the general public. We have until 17th October to express our opinion on this issue.

In the next week or so I expect to become a Dad for the first time. Pretty bloody exciting. The process of preparing for parenthood has been a really interesting and satisfying one; my partner and I have received a lot of support from different people, including professionals. Generally speaking, I would say that professionals in this area do an excellent job.

There are of course exceptions to this though. And, for me, these exceptions generally revolve around the system's desire to manage all the people (mother, partner, child) involved in the birth. There are a lot of rules and guidelines in place that prescribe what happens to the people involved at various stages of pregnancy and birth. A lot of the time these are really helpful but not always.

For instance there is a strict rule at Southmead Hospital that there will be no partners on maternity wards after 8pm. The maternity ward is where the mother and baby go after they have given birth (the birthing wards are open to partners for the entire birth process). So, if my child is born in the afternoon, then I will be able to spend very little time with him or her, before being forcibly ejected from the premises. My partner will then have to cope on her own with our newborn child until I am allowed on the ward again at 10am the next morning.

Rules like this can be incredibly damaging I believe. If a mother wants to avail herself of the professional support available on the maternity ward, then her partner is disqualified from enjoying those precious early hours with his/her child. It is a real shame.

I intend to contribute to the on-going review of maternity services, to suggest that this rule be changed. I encourage others to also participate - especially those who have had experience of maternity services in this area. It is a great chance for changes to be made, especially as the people conducting the review seem to be recognising this tendency for the birth experience to be "over-managed". The review has highlighted the increasing occurence of Caesarean sections as a cause for concern; more generally, births tend to involve more intervention and to be "more medical" than they used to be. This review may be a chance to curb these trends.

Changes suggested by the review

  1. More promotion of the importance of care before becoming pregnant.
  2. Direct access to a midwife without having to see a GP first.
  3. Targeting some resources to those with the highest need, for example by improving translation and interpretation services and access to English classes.
  4. Employing specialist midwives to work with vulnerable women such as teenagers, drug users, etc.
  5. A wider choice of antenatal classes.
  6. More choice of where to give birth.
  7. More women to have a home birth or a birth in a more home-like environment.
  8. Women to have one-to-one care from a midwife during labour.
  9. Women will be able to choose to have postnatal care, individually or in groups at their local health centre rather than at home.
  10. Improvements to services for women with mental health problems.
  11. More training for midwives, e.g. to help parents following the death or illness of their baby.

The review has also suggested that women see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy, and during the birth. In the current system women have often never met the midwife who attends to them during their labour; this can be just one more stress in an already stressful time.

How to participate in the review

  • Website: more information about the review is available here.
  • Email: bhsp[at]bristolpct[dot]nhs[dot]uk
  • Postal address: Bristol Health Services Plan, Freepost BS1 O78, King Square House, King Square, Bristol, BS2 8EE.
  • Telephone, free phone number: 0800 015 5127
  • Minicom: 0117 9002675
  • Finally, there are a series of public meetings that people can attend

    Monday 6 October, 6.30-8pm
    The Hall
    Broadmead Baptist Church
    BS1 3HY

    South Gloucestershire

    Monday 22 September, 10-11.30am
    Oak Hall
    Jubilee Centre
    Savages Wood Road
    Bradley Stoke
    BS32 8HL

    North Somerset

    Thursday 2 September, 6.30 -8pm
    Main Hall
    Folk Hall
    High Street
    BS20 6PR

    Thursday 18 September, 6.30-8pm
    St James Church Hall
    Woodborough Road
    BS25 1AQ

    Tuesday 7 October, 10.30am-12pm
    The Campus
    Highlands Lane
    BS24 7DX

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