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Hillingdon health watchdog concerned for vulnerable mums-to-be in light of national report

National Maternity Review suggests mums-to-be should be given a personal budget of £3,000 each, but Healthwatch Hillingdon are concerned for the disadvantaged making this choice

Hillingdon 's health watchdog has shared their concern for vulnerable mothers-to-be in light of a report which suggests pregnant women make decisions about how and where they receive care.

Independently chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, the National Maternity Review suggests mums-to-be should be given a personal budget of £3,000 each.

The review was commissioned by NHS England, following the Morecambe Bay Investigation into the serious failures of clinical care in the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital.

“Every woman should develop a personalised care plan, with her midwife and other health professionals, which sets out her decisions about her care, reflects her wider health needs and is kept up to date as her pregnancy progresses”, the report reads.

Graham Hawkes, chief executive of Healthwatch Hillingdon welcomes the review and is “delighted” that it recommendations to shape a future maternity service that “puts women in control and at the centre of their care, throughout their pregnancy and the post-natal period.”

He said: “It is also pleasing to see the focus placed on raising the awareness of maternal mental health, something that we have been advocating for, across North West London, for some time.

One of the significant proposals of the review is to give women access to an NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget.

Healthwatch Hillingdon say they embrace women having a choice, but “would caution how the more vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the community are supported to make the most effective use of their budget".

'Disadvantaged women need consultant advice'

The health watchdog is concerned that without adequate advice to make informed choices, there could be a widening of health inequalities and inequality in access to maternity care services.

A Healthwatch Hillingdon spokesperson said: “With Ealing Maternity Unit closing under Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF), the quality and safety of maternity care continues to be in the spotlight locally.

“We see the call in the review for women to have greater continuity from midwives as important, but this should also be aligned with the 168 hours of comprehensive consultant cover on maternity wards, that we have been guaranteed by the SaHF Clinical Board.

"The review also places a strong emphasis towards home births, however only 1 in 10 women currently say they would choose a home birth.”

In Hillingdon, one in 100 births took place outside of a birthing unit last year.

The review urges women to play their part in creating the maternity services they want, by voicing their opinions and challenging those providing the services.

The Healthwatch Hillingdon spokesperson continued: “We would passionately echo that sentiment.

“Work by Healthwatch show that over half of women who have used a maternity service want to give feedback to help improve services, yet two thirds don’t know how.

“We appreciate that the review looks to address this and encourage an emphasis on new methods, which avoid the over-reliance on surveys.

Healthwatch Hillingdon are currently undertaking a focused project to listen to women’s experience of maternity care at Hillingdon Hospital .

Women can tell them about their recent experiences of maternity services by calling the team on 01895 272997, or emailing office@healthwatchhillingdon.org.uk.

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