On 7 January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan was launched at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, setting out how the Government will spend the £20.5 billion budget increase that was promised by the Prime Minister in summer 2018.
The plan includes a number of provisions relating to care delivered during pregnancy and in the neonatal period, most significantly the commitment to reduce stillbirths and deaths of mothers and babies around the time of birth by 50%. While 2017 had the lowest number of stillbirths ever recorded, this still meant that nine babies were stillborn every day, and almost three babies in 1000 died within 28 days of birth. These figures remain too high, with countries such as Croatia, Poland and the Czech Republic all having better stillbirth rates than the UK.
Further commitments were made to the expansion of the healthcare workforce, with a specific focus on neonatal care. In practice there are still some significant issues over the separation of mother and baby when a child is transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The provision of specialist care at this highly stressful and emotional time for new parents needs to be as well-managed as possible.
Penningtons Manches’ specialist birth injury claims solicitors often hear stories about mothers and babies who have been kept at different hospitals when specialist care is required, which is a worrying situation and one that must be addressed alongside improvements to the actual care provision. There is also a planned move towards better continuity of midwifery care during pregnancy and improved support for perinatal mental health conditions, for both mother and father, which can all too often result in a tragic outcome for the family.
Other steps promised include a move towards digital records for mother and baby and accredited infant feeding programmes in every area. Infant feeding initiatives have been scrutinised in recent years, with evidence suggesting that higher rates of breastfeeding lead to a reduction in infant infection rates. Parents must be supported to make this a reality, given the challenges that breastfeeding can often present, and our team welcomes steps to offer the requisite help for new parents.
We look forward to seeing these promises become reality.