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'We will need more midwives,' hospitals told

Hospitals are to be urged to fund more midwives in Suffolk and north-east Essex. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Hospitals are to be urged to fund more midwives in Suffolk and north-east Essex. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

A midwife is to make an impassioned plea for hospitals to pay for more childbirth assistants in a bid to vastly improve babies' and parents' health.

Teri Gavin-Jones believes improved maternity care could not only make mothers happier during pregnancy but have other hugely positive knock-on effects, for example by reducing the number of children with long-term illnesses.

Central to the vision of the Better Births transformation programme launched across Suffolk and north-east Essex in May, for which Mrs Gavin-Jones is clinical lead, is continuity of care - mums seeing the same midwives throughout their pregnancy.

This simple change, rather than mothers potentially seeing different healthcare professionals at check-ups, will mean them forming closer relationships with midwives and problems being spotted more easily, Mrs Gavin-Jones said.

She believes the target for mothers to see the same midwife or "buddy" midwife at every appointment by 2025 will help bring about a 50% reduction in maternal deaths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries at birth.

However to succeed, she says that midwives' current caseload of approximately 90 mothers at any one time needs to be reduced to about 36.

"It doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out that we will need more midwives," said Mrs Gavin-Jones, who is a midwife at Colchester Hospital.

She added: "It's about relationship-building and when you have a caseload of 90, you can't do that.

"If you had nine months to get to know the mother, it's much easier to recognise if something has changed.

"If you understand what she's like ante-natally, you're more likely to spot something post-natally."

And when she gives a presentation to healthcare leaders at this week's West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body meeting in Bury St Edmunds, she plans to ask hospitals in the region pay for more midwives to bring the plan to fruition.

With the Better Births programme - run by the Suffolk and North East Essex Sustainable Transformation Programme (STP), made up of healthcare organisations in the region - in its early stages, the exact number of midwives needed and the cost is still being worked out.

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However six "continuity of care" teams have already been set up across Ipswich, West Suffolk and Colchester hospitals.

And Mrs Gavin-Jones said: "What we're asking for in the business case is that they [the hospitals] take on the responsibility of paying for the midwives they're going to need."

She admitted that it "takes quite progressive and forward-thinking financial directors" to take on board her case, particularly as she says that they "will not see a return immediately" on their money.

But she said: "My job is to explain to them what Better Births is and what the impact will be.

"I hope they have enough foresight to see this will improve health outcomes for years and years."

She added: "The return will probably be five years down the line, because maternity affects everything.

"If we invest in the way women give birth now, we know the public health outcomes are much better.

"We will therefore see fewer children with special educational needs and less emotional and physical stress on families. There will be fewer brain injuries at birth."

In a report prepared for the upcoming West Suffolk CCG governing body meeting on Wednesday, July 24, maternity programme manager Helen Bowles said: "Extensive work is still required to deliver the remaining milestones/service developments.

"This will require investment from the entire system."

Lynne Saunders, head of midwifery at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We're really proud to be working with our healthcare system partners to deliver a more personalised service to new mothers and their families, as part of the Better Births initiative launched in May.

"Continuity of care is a key priority for us, and working with the CCG we are in the process of developing a workforce plan to ensure these quality improvements can be implemented in the long-term."

Catherine Morgan, chief nurse for East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We will work closely with CCG colleagues to plan workforce requirements for new models of care and service."

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