Pregnant women should be given a budget of around £3,000 which could allow them to appoint their own midwife, a major review into maternity services has concluded.
Under the proposed scheme, women would be told about all local providers of NHS care and the services they offer – including private companies offering home births, hypnobirthing and acupuncture. They would then be able to make decisions about how and where they receive care.
Expectant mothers may chose a provider who ensures continuity of care from the same midwife throughout pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, the authors said. Women would also be able to choose a hospital near their workplace for routine scans and a hospital closer to home for the birth of their child.
The authors of the National Maternity Review likened the scheme to personal health budgets where people with long-term conditions and disabilities are given a say over how NHS money is spent on them.
However, some have criticised the personal health budgets scheme for being open to abuse, with reports of people using their budgets to buy holidays or computer consoles. The review’s authors said that only accredited providers would be eligible under this scheme.
The recommendations for giving women greater freedom in where they have their babies comes on the back of half the maternity services in England being deemed “inadequate” or
“requiring improvement” in terms of their safety.
The review highlights some stark concerns over the safety of maternity services, even though there have been drastic improvements in the last decade. The authors said hospitals are not always admitting when something has gone wrong.