Maternity Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 2:30 pm, 30th March 2010

What steps he is taking to ensure that maternity services provide a full range of high-quality birth choices for women.

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

Almost all NHS trusts are delivering the national guarantee for women to have a choice about place of birth as set out in "Maternity Matters". This supports our aim to give all mothers easy access to supportive, high-quality maternity services, designed around their individual needs, their families and those of their baby.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He will know from his recent visit to Salford that mums such as Lisa Kean and fabulous midwives such as Heather Rawlinson and Sarah Davies have been campaigning with me to make sure that there is a midwife-led maternity unit in Salford, so that the next generation of Salfordians can continue to be born in the city. Will my right hon. Friend give this unit his full support so that we have a real facility rather than the smoke and mirrors of "maternity networks", whatever they might be, which are currently on offer from the Opposition?

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

I spent a very enjoyable and interesting afternoon with a group of Salford mums recently and I would recommend it to anyone, as I learned a great deal. I know that they are giving their support to the formidable campaign that my right hon. Friend has led to establish a midwife-led unit in Salford. I know that NHS Salford has recently given support in principle for that scheme, but it will consider the full business case later this year.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I declare an interest as an honorary vice-president of the Royal College of Midwives.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am going to deliver.

Does the Secretary of State accept that a safe, successful and enjoyable birth is what every woman craves? Does he further accept that midwives are absolutely critical to the care given to a pregnant woman, not just before pregnancy, but during delivery and post-natally? Will he ensure that there are sufficient midwives to provide that quality of service?

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and I pay tribute to him in his honorary role with the Royal College of Midwives. I agree wholeheartedly with the way in which he has presented his question. It is crucial to give mothers the best possible support during childbirth. Eighty-nine per cent. of women say that the care they receive during pregnancy and childbirth is good quality, but there is more to do to ensure that that 89 per cent. becomes higher. We are recruiting more midwives. We have had 4,000 more since 1997; we need to recruit more to ensure that this one-to-one support is there. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work that he has done.

Photo of David Crausby David Crausby Chair, North West Regional Select Committee

The £20 million investment available for the new super-maternity centre in the Royal Bolton hospital is very welcome indeed, but is it not threatened by those who support proposals to abandon the Making it Better scheme that covers Greater Manchester?

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

My constituents will also benefit from that investment to the Bolton Royal, which is much welcomed. I am disappointed that candidates are going around Greater Manchester undermining the clinically-led process that we went through with Making it Better. We took difficult decisions because we wanted to improve the safety of services for mothers and children. These candidates cannot have it both ways: they say that they will save maternity units elsewhere in Greater Manchester, yet by attacking the scheme, they undermine the investment going into my hon. Friend's constituency.

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health)

The Government have made repeated commitments about choice for all women in childbirth. Jenny and Hadleigh Farrer of Norwich, however, who specifically wanted a home birth were told when Jenny went into labour that no midwives were available between 10 pm and 8 am the following morning. She gave birth at home without a midwife in attendance. Does not this case and many others expose the sad reality, confirmed by the Royal College of Midwives, that there are not enough midwives to deliver either a safe birth or choice for women in childbirth?

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

I am not aware of the precise details of the case raised by the hon. Gentleman, but if he will write to me I shall be happy to look into it. I can tell him that 99 per cent. of primary care trusts offer home birth as a core part of their offer to mothers-to-be, although the arrangements may vary according to the circumstances obtaining on any particular day and the levels of clinical risk that may be involved in any pregnancy. I want to go even further and enshrine in the NHS constitution a guarantee that all mothers-to-be can give birth in a place of their choosing.