The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that £2.45 million funding will be made available to benefit NHS maternity staff and improve the safety of the women and babies they care for.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) will receive almost £2 million to lead the first phase of the Avoiding Brain injuries in Childbirth (ABC) collaboration.
The funding will be used to survey maternity staff and parents and test out best practices for monitoring and responding to a baby’s wellbeing during labour. It will also focus on managing complications with a baby’s positioning during caesarean section to reduce brain injuries.
Due to be carried out by the end of this year, the ABC review aims to develop a nationally agreed approach for how staff monitor the condition of a baby during labour by:
- testing different approaches to monitoring babies during labour and surveying maternity staff to see how midwives and obstetricians currently identify when a baby is in distress during labour and how they then deliver babies even more safely
- interviewing women and their birth partners on these varying approaches based on their personal experiences
- agreeing on a clear process to monitor babies and record readings during labour with a flowchart guide to decide when to escalate a case to the wider multi-disciplinary maternity team
- developing a nationally agreed approach to delivering babies via caesarean section when there are complications with the baby’s positioning
The review will be carried out through a partnership with the RCM, The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute at the University of Cambridge and the RCOG. The three organisations will aim to agree the best clinical practice for managing deteriorating conditions of babies during labour and test how this could be rolled out across maternity services in England in future.
DHSC has also provided almost £450,000 to the RCOG to develop a new workforce planning tool to improve how maternity units calculate their medical staffing requirements, to better support families and babies.
Over the next year, RCOG will collaborate with and gather data from the health sector, determining how the tool can help NHS trusts to understand their own medical staffing needs, and provide standardised, safe and personalised care tailored to their communities.
Due to be freely available to NHS trusts across the country next year, the tool will aim to:
- provide maternity staff with a new methodology that calculates the numbers, skill sets and grades of medical staff required within individual maternity units based on local needs
- help trusts tackle inequalities by taking into account local factors such as birth rates, age of population, the socio-economic status of the area, and geographical factors
- calculate the number of obstetricians at all grades required locally and nationally to provide a safe, personalised maternity service within the context of the wider workforce
- identify innovative ways of working to better utilise the current workforce
- help gain a better understanding of the factors that promote safety and positive culture within maternity teams and how these can be rolled out nationally
Maternity safety minister Nadine Dorries said: “I am determined to make sure as many mums as possible can go home with healthy and happy babies in their arms.
“This new programme, which we’re supporting with over £2.45 million, aims to spot warning signs earlier and save lives, preventing families and their babies from facing the horrific ordeal of a life-changing brain injury. It will help us deliver on our ambition to halve brain injuries during birth by 2025.
“Having the right maternity staff in the right place at the right time means they can learn from one another, give the best care for mums and babies and build a safe and positive environment for both staff and pregnant women in maternity teams across the country.”