Date Published: 30 June 2007

Maternity conference examines safety at time of pressure and change for services

Health News from England and Wales.

Reducing risk in maternity services and ensuring the provision of safe care to mothers and babies was the focus of a Healthcare Commission and National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) conference held this week.

The conference brought together health professionals and policy makers to focus on maintaining safe care, as maternity services undergo a period of significant change and development.

Services are facing increasing challenges as they are examined and reconfigured, with the publication of Maternity Matters by the Department of Health, the development of new labour ward standards by the Royal Colleges and the forthcoming NICE intrapartum care guidelines.

The "Safe Delivery" conference saw senior representatives from organisations including the Department of Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, NICE, the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit present knowledge, data and examples of tools and practices to nearly 200 policy makers, clinicians, managers and staff.

Sir Ian Kennedy, Chairman of the Healthcare Commission and Lord Naren Patel, Chairman of the NPSA (and ex-President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists), opened the conference, held on 26 June.

Sir Ian Kennedy, Chairman of the Healthcare Commission said:

Maternity services are in a special position of providing care at a defining moment for mothers, their babies and their families. It is vital that all experience safe, confident and effective care.

_ Our investigations in maternity services have identified certain common features leading to risks to patients, one of which is structural change, such as a merger or reconfiguration.

_ I want to be clear that the Commission is not questioning the need for change in maternity services. Our recently-published review of children’s hospital services shows change is often essential to make services as safe as possible for patients.

_ But it is terribly important that services and particularly maternity services, in the light of recent proposals from government and professional groups, keep their eye on the ball of safety as they go through the forthcoming period of change and development.

Lord Naren Patel, Chairman of the National Patient Safety Agency said:

My professional life has been spent working in obstetrics and maternity services. I believe that every delivery should be a positive experience for mother and child. Safe, high quality care - consistent across the country - is every woman’s right.

_ There have been failures in maternity services and these are known - the issue is how we tackle them. The NPSA is tasked with managing a National Reporting and Learning System to identify areas of risk; the challenge for all of us - not just the NPSA, but the whole NHS - is to work together to address these and to make a difference to the lives of women and their babies.


Source: The Healthcare Commission (UK).

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