Following an independent review on NHS maternity services, which revealed that despite the number of stillbirths and deaths falling by a fifth over the last decade nearly half of all inspections of maternity services resulted in safety assessments that were classed as either “inadequate” or “requires improvement”, personal budgets similar to those available for the elderly and disabled will soon be offered.
Simon Stevens, chief Executive of NHS England, said: “The independent review finds that quality and safety of NHS maternity services has improved substantially over the past decade, and most new mums tell us they are looked after well. But it rightly argues that the NHS could and should raise its game on personalised support for parents and their babies, better team working, better use of technology, and more joined up maternity and mental health services.”
Women will be able to select NHS-accredited services such as private midwifery, a home birth, use of a birthing pool or hypnotherapy for anxiety and pain.
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Andy Lord, chief people officer at recruitment firm Rethink, described the development as something which will put women in control at “such an important stage of their life” – and will put them in a safer and better position.
However, he added: “It is imperative that the onus is not just on the government. Employers must also do their bit to ensure that women have access to the right kind of help – private healthcare packages and financial support for example during their pregnancy and maternity.
“Problems come though from employers with out-dated attitudes – meaning that leave, pay and everything associated with maternity can still be frowned upon. It amazes me that some business leaders still have little inclination to support pregnant colleagues, meaning the only support they receive is that of the state.”
Lord went on to explain that women are often unable to return to previous roles after taking off time to have children because of the struggles of a balancing a daily commute and childcare.
“There appears to me to be a complete and utter lack of flexibility across all sectors and it’s causing people to leave their careers – a great cost to businesses who are simply wasting highly experienced, motivated and talented people.
“I hope that by putting support for pregnant women back on the agenda today, business leaders will be encouraged to sit up, listen and embrace flexible working trends, financial support and encouraging mental wellbeing to keep women in work. It will result in the biggest reward an organisation can hope for – loyalty and a long-term commitment to the business.”
Data has shown that low-risk standard births cost the NHS around £3,000. The new system will be piloted during 2016 ahead of a rollout in 2017. More information on the system and wider maternity review can be found on the NHS website.
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