Posted by Madeleine Speed, the Pelvic Partnership, November 2016
The subject of this month's blog is the importance of sharing your experience of using NHS maternity services as a way of bringing about change. As you may have noticed, we've featured current news about maternity services before (e.g. in March and April 2015). It's a really important topic to us given that our readers are predominantly women of child-bearing age with pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP).
During November, NHS England is publicising the next steps in its plans to deliver safer and more personalised care for women and their babies. As you may be aware, NHS England is responsible for setting the priorities and direction of the NHS in England; it also takes the lead in encouraging the debate to improve health and care. This latest publicity is to raise awareness of imminent changes to enhance maternity care and to encourage individuals and patient groups to contribute their feedback to further raise standards. This is definitely good news which warrants support!
NHS England has launched the first steps of its new Maternity Transformation Programme which aims to deliver significant change in maternity services across England in the next five years. This is an important and encouraging initiative which we wanted to share with readers based in England. The vision is for fundamental improvements so maternity services become:
"...safer, more personalised, kinder, professional and more family friendly: where every woman has access to information to enable her to make decisions about her care; and where she and her baby can access support that is centred around their individual needs and circumstances."
The Maternity Transformation Programme is NHS England's response to the major review it conducted recently into maternity services which produced the 'Better Births' report published in February 2016 and which proposes a plan of action where recommendations would be underpinned by a proposed timeframe of actions. The Maternity Transformation Programme outlined the need for 'Early Adopter sites' in local areas to test a range of new and innovative ways of working to help transform maternity services, such as:
- Using small teams of midwives to offer greater continuity of care to women
- Creating single points of access to a wider range of maternity services
- Making better use of electronic records to provide more joined up care
- Improving postnatal care
- Providing better personalised care planning
NHS England has just published the seven local areas which have been chosen to pilot these initiatives (they include the following: Birmingham and Solihull STP, Cheshire and Merseyside STP, Dorset STP, North Central London STP, North West London STP, Somerset STP and Surrey Heartlands STP). These 'Early Adopter sites' will aim to harness enthusiasm for change and test the model of care described in the review. They will lead the way in developing and implementing changes to local services by bringing providers and commissioners together as Local Maternity Systems to ensure women and their babies receive safe, more personalised care that meets the needs of the local community. These chosen areas cover a population of nine million, with around 126,300 births each year. A share of up to £8 million will be available over the next two years to support this transformational change in maternity services.
This initiative is in line with NHS England's work to encourage everyone to exercise greater control over their own health and wellbeing. A key component is to continue to encourage involvement in how and what healthcare services are provided at either a national or local level. There's also the opportunity to help to represent specific patient groups (such as women with PGP). It's a step that the Pelvic Partnership wholeheartedly endorses. We believe that women should be involved from the outset in any work aimed at improving maternity care in general and particularly for the specific needs of women such as those with pregnancy-related PGP.
How to get involved
Could you help to provide feedback to inform and help to drive changes in local maternity services within the NHS? You could do this in two important ways: by continuing to help us by handing out our Stickmum leaflets to healthcare professionals treating you or relevant departments in your area. You can also do this either by providing feedback direct through local and NHS England consultations, or through PALs and Healthwatch England.
Our Stickmum campaign
The team, working on behalf of the Pelvic Partnership charity, will continue its work to lobby the NHS for improvements in the care and treatment of women who have PGP. We can do this through our current channels of communication: liaising with key NHS staff by providing feedback on women's experience and the need for better standards of care. We are also doing this by working with our members and advocates to give Stickmum leaflets to GPs, physios, midwives and chiropractors. It is now a year on since our Stickmum campaign launch which has received an encouraging response. Use this link to see our new campaign video. It is also really useful for individuals to talk to relevant staff, to email or post feedback on shortcomings in maternity services for women with PGP, direct to maternity departments, midwifery teams and key hospital staff to stimulate change.
You can help to be part of this movement for change by downloading more of our Stickmum leaflets or ordering copies of the leaflet to hand to key NHS staff or to hand these in to senior staff within local surgeries, physio departments, midwifery units or your local maternity hospital.
Contacting the NHS or NHS England direct
You can also write down your experience of maternity services (to praise where staff and facilities have been excellent or to highlight shortcomings where improvements are needed) and giving them to staff in charge of those services or via your local hospital's Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) service. PALS offers confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. They also provide a point of contact for patients, their families and their carers. You can find your nearest PALS office on the NHS Choices website.
Contacting NHS England
Members of the public, patients, and their representatives should contact the Customer Contact Centre within NHS England.
Telephone: 0300 311 22 33
Post: NHS England, PO Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT
How 'Healthwatch England' can help
You can also guide your feedback on maternity services and PGP back to key healthcare staff via Healthwatch. Healthwatch identifies common problems with health and social care based on people's experiences and also recommends changes to benefit people using health services. It also holds those services and decision-makers to account. Your local Healthwatch is based on your local authority, click here to can find your local Healthwatch. Your experience can help to shape the way services are delivered, now and in the future.
Thank you for your help in being an active part in this transformation of maternity services.