Over the past few years there has been an escalation in the erosion of the midwifery care provided at home after birth. I have complained, wrung my hands, and generally played the prophet of doom about the impact this could have but, unfortunately, postnatal care is the easiest way for Trusts to cut staffing costs so the resources for this area have been torn away with relief by struggling maternity services. It is the area less likely to produce litigation, and the area where any successful litigation would probably decide on far smaller awards to the claimant so, in the mind of a budget holder, is the safest area to cut services back to the bone.
I was at a governance meeting a while back where the topic of community postnatal care came-up, and I was surprised to hear a consultant midwife back the reduction in care whilst supporting her approach by mentioning ‘a study in the Netherlands’ which found no difference in outcomes between those who had care at home after birth and those who didn’t. Well, I think I’ve found the study, Costs and effectiveness of community postnatal support workers, and if this was the study then she was in error using it to support the discussion as the visits by midwives were not changed, more and longer visits were provided by maternity support workers. Well, today I learned that there is to be a study conducted initially in Scotland by Sterling University into postnatal care. Am I hopeful it will be a positive thing? Not really as I’m not entirely sure that it will be woman centred. At the moment all I have to go on is the BBC report,and whilst I love ‘Auntie’ I am aware that reporting on this topic, maternity care, is not always accurate so I’m just going on their take on the information. What concerns me is that NICE have already issued their guidance on Postnatal Care, which Trusts have interpreted to mean that care is taken away from the home and provided at clinics and this study are also going to ‘develop a best practice package’… ‘which individual health authorities could then adapt to their needs’, (their needs being to cut costs). I will be interested to read their results but I’m really not going to hold my breath.
My previous musings on this topic include; Letting women and babies down? (2010); The Demise of Community Midwifery – part 2 (2010); What now? (2009); A step backwards (2008); An embarrassment (2007). When reading these offerings prior to linking it was interesting (depressing) to chart the real demise of the postnatal care provision in my area, especially my ’embarrassment’ at the care I was not providing in 2007 when we were still visiting at home. Now we ‘triage’ on the first day home and basically, if the woman answers all the questions on our pro forma correctly, she won’t get to see a midwife until Day 5, and then the likelihood is that it will be at a clinic, one of which is 12 miles away. I’m not embarrassed now, I’m ashamed.