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NHS nursing staff given updated guidance on maternity care safety

Thursday 27th October 2016
The Department of Health has issued new guidance to UK nursing staff on safety standards in maternity care. Image: Soren_Jessen via iStock
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    Nurses and midwives working for the NHS have been provided with updated maternity care guidance in a bid to improve safety standards for parents-to-be and their newborns.

    The Department of Health has published a new safety maternity care action plan, which outlines best practices for nursing staff caring for pregnant women in the hope of reducing the UK's stillbirth rate.

    What does the new safety plan involve?

    The government's plan includes a significant sum of funding that will be spent on improved training and resources to boost safety standards long term, including £8 million that is earmarked for maternity safety training. At least £40,000 of this total will be made available to every NHS Trust in England, while an additional £250,000 budget has been set aside to develop and pilot new innovations for use in maternity care.

    In addition, the Department of Health wants to improve visibility for expectant mothers accessing maternity care in Britain, so will publicly publish maternity ratings for every clinical commissioning group throughout the country.

    Maternity care nurses will also be offered the option of attending 'safe space' sessions where they will be able to disclose anything that is bothering them about their hospital's safety standards without fear of having to attend a disciplinary hearing. Experts hope that this initiative will help to improve overall standards and wellbeing levels over the long term.

    What's more, the new guidance includes a brand new National Maternal and Neonatal Health Quality Improvement Programme, which encourages all NHS Trusts to swap tips and ideas on best practice. A similar scheme has recently been trialled in Scotland, with the number of stillbirths in the country decreasing by 19 per cent over a three-year period as a result.

    How will the new guidance lead to improved maternity care safety standards?

    The government hopes that bringing in a new action plan will help to ensure that pregnant women, new mothers and their newborns are being provided with the highest possible standard of care at all times, leading to a reduced stillbirth rate across the country.

    Similar initiatives have been introduced in Sweden over the past decade, with the number of birth injuries sustained by mothers and their babies decreasing by approximately 50 per cent over seven years as a result of tighter maternity care safety standards.

    Health secretary Jeremy Hunt commented: "Our NHS maternity staff do a fantastic job under huge pressure. But even though we have made much progress, our stillbirth rates are still amongst the highest in Western Europe and many on the frontline say there is still too much of a blame culture when things go wrong - often caused by fear of litigation or worry about damage to reputation and careers.

    "These comprehensive measures will give practical support to help trusts improve their approach to safety - and help to foster an open and transparent culture so that the courts become a last resort, not an automatic first step."

    Written by James Puckle

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