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The BBC's Alison Holt
"The government says it wants to give more women a choice to have a home or a hospital birth"
 real 56k

Health Secretary, Alan Milburn
"We're going to make sure midwifery is a lucrative career"
 real 28k

Shadow Health spokesman Dr Liam Fox
"It is just meaningless soundbites"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Ministers to deliver maternity millions
The government has promised more midwives to care for mothers and babies
The government has promised more midwives to care for mothers and babies
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has pledged to expand English maternity services with an investment of 100m.

In a speech to the Royal College of Midwives conference in Torquay on Wednesday, Mr Milburn promised every woman would be able to have one-to-one care from a midwife during labour.

He said: "Modern maternity services need modern maternity facilities."

He promised an additional 2,000 more midwives would be on the wards by 2005 to make this possible.


"Modern maternity services need modern maternity facilities

Alan Milburn,
Health Secretary
Five hundred are set to be in place by the end of next year.

A spokesman for the RCM welcomed the plans for more midwives, but said: "What we are keen to see is how these announcements are actually going to translate on the ground.

All 250 maternity units in England will be refurbished, the Health Secretary announced.

Mr Milburn said only seven in 10 units currently provided one-to-one care with the same midwife throughout labour.

He added that there were too many variations in the maternity care provided.

Choice

Mr Milburn said he wanted to see: "Maternity services that give women and families more choice over the care they receive so that every child, regardless of background or circumstance has the best possible start in life".


What we are keen to see is how these announcements are actually going to translate on the ground

RCM spokesman

He added: "It's time maternity services got their fair share of rising levels of NHS investment".

In addition to one-to-one care, the 100m cash injection - which will be invested over the next two years if Labour win the forthcoming election - could fund some single rooms with televisions and telephones.

Fathers could also benefit, with plans to set aside rooms for them in maternity units, particularly if the baby is in a special care unit.

In addition more mothers-to-be will be able to choose home births.

Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn: Promising more privacy
A National Service Framework on maternity services is promised.

Mr Milburn said it would put an end to the "lottery of childbirth choices" that women currently face.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust said maternity units should be made less clinical and more welcoming and comfortable for women in labour.

But she said more midwives was the key to improving services.

Professor Robert Shaw, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists would benefit obstetricians, midwives and patients.

He added: "However, to meet the expectations of individuals and the quality targets within the NHS Plan will require resources to be directed toward increasing the numbers of doctors and midwives and a long-term commitment to increased levels of funding for the service".

Shadow Health Secretary Liam Fox said Mr Milburn had simply "thrown around numbers in meaningless way".

He said there were 390 fewer midwives than there were in 1997, and said: "Where do they think they are going to get them from - are they going to magic them out of thin air".

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Nick Harvey said before the Health Secretary's speech: "What women needed was prompt action after the last election not soothing words ahead of the next election."

Industrial action threat

At their conference this week, midwives are set to discuss the possibility of taking industrial action to protest at staff shortages.

Staff are leaving because of low morale caused by the pressures of the job, say midwives.

Maternity units are to be refurbished
Maternity units are to be refurbished
In his speech, Mr Milburn said midwifery needed to be a more attractive career.

He said those who wanted to return to work in the NHS would have to take a refresher course to hone their skills, but promised a 1,500 one-off payment to help fund their training.

Earlier this week, health minister Yvette Cooper announced screening for cystic fibrosis and Down's syndrome was to be made available for all new mothers and pregnant women.

On Tuesday, Trade Secretary Stephen Byers announced a streamlining of maternity leave rules. allowing new mothers to take up to three months' unpaid maternity leave, which means they could have up to one year off work.

There is to be a simplified system for maternity pay and leave to help employees and employers, and a new website will provide information for working mothers.

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29 Nov 00 | Health
Midwives warn of staff shortages
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