I believe every woman and their baby should receive personalised, high quality care. One of the key commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) is to make the NHS one of the safest places in the world to give birth and the LTP sets out a range of new measures to improve women’s experience of pregnancy.
Women who are healthy and have not experienced complications can choose to give birth in the place that feels right for them. This can be at home, in a midwifery unit, or at a hospital. As part of putting the interests of women at the heart of the process, NHS England and NHS Improvement have committed to the rollout of Midwifery Continuity of Carer, so that it becomes the default model of care for women using maternity services across England.
NHS England has also announced a £127 million investment to increase staffing numbers in maternity and neonatal services and the Government is working to increase the number of midwives by expanding midwifery training places by 3,650 by March 2023. This is on top of £95 million investment into recruitment of an additional 1,200 midwives and 100 consultant obstetricians. NHS England is also making a non-repayable, training grant of at least £5,000 per academic year available for eligible midwifery students.
Furthermore, a Maternity Disparities Taskforce was established in February 2022 to explore the reasons for disparities in maternity care and address poor outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities and those living in deprived areas. This is supported by the Women's Health Strategy which was published in July 2022 which committed to make the NHS the best place in the world to give birth through personalised, individualised, and high-quality care.
The Department for Health and Social Care is working with the NHS to establish an independent working group to help guide the implementation of the recommendations from the Ockenden report and the East Kent report, following its publication on 19 October. The first working group meeting took place on 31 August 2022 and will inform the new NHS Maternity Development Plan.
I am proud to support a Government that is giving women more choice, making services safer and helping to shape maternity care for years to come.
In relation to homebirths, I agree that women should be supported in their choice of where to have their baby, as guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence makes clear.
The provision of support for home births is a responsibility for individual NHS Trusts, and I am sorry to hear that some services have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am assured that the Government is taking steps to increase the number of midwives to support maternity services. NHS England and NHS Improvement provided Local Maternity Systems with £90.05 million from 2018 to 2021 to improve safety and outcomes.
An additional £95 million was announced in 2021 to support the recruitment of a further 1,200 midwives and 100 obstetricians. Through this funding, providers will be able to support newly qualified midwives and the recruitment of midwives from overseas.