Maternity Services

House of Lords written question – answered on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Warwick Lord Taylor of Warwick Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the rate of maternity unit closures; and what steps they intend to take in respect of such closures.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

To drive improvements to maternity care nationally we have invested £35 million to improve services at over 160 maternity units across the country, targeting those areas with the largest increases in birth rates. There are over 1,700 more midwives than in 2010, with 6,000 more in training, and the number of midwifery-led units has increased from 82 in 2007 to 155 units in 2013.

The Department does not collect data on, or assess the rate of, maternity unit closures centrally. The National Audit Office report, Maternity Services in England, published in November 2013, found that 28% of maternity units reported that they closed for half a day or more between April and September 2012.

There are occasions when a maternity unit cannot safely accept more women into their care and may need to close temporarily. Any decisions to redirect women are always made by clinicians as part of a carefully managed process.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are responsible for commissioning maternity services in line with NHS England commissioning guidance. As part of the commissioning process, CCGs take into account the views of local maternity services users and factors such as demography, geography and the balance between choice and safety to determine the level of provision appropriate locally. NHS England has established strategic clinical networks to research, develop and disseminate best practice to support this guidance.

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