£25m cash injection to enhance NHS maternity units

Patient environment to be improved as Government pledges better care for pregnant women

The Government money will be spent improving maternity environments

The patient environment within maternity units up and down the country will be improved as part of a £25m cash injection announced by the Government this week.

Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter, made the announcement ahead of the publication of the NHS Mandate which reinforced commitments around improving care, support and experience for women during pregnancy.

There will now be £25m available to improve maternity facilities, whether it’s more en-suite facilities, overnight rooms for dads, birthing pools, or other improvements to the care and experience of women during pregnancy and childbirth

Under the programme, maternity service providers will be able to apply for funds to improve the environments in which care is delivered. The cash can be spent on enhancements such as en-suite facilities, rooms where partners can stay overnight, or facilities such as birthing pools. This means women will be able to give birth with more dignity and in more comfort.

As a further boost to new parents, the NHS Information Service for Parents is being expanded to cover older babies up to six months of age and by April 2013 will be further expanded to cover children up to 18 months. The service provides parents with free advice through regular emails, videos and texts on the issues that matter most to them – including all aspects of pregnancy and baby care.

The move follows the Government’s commitment to improve early diagnosis and support for postnatal depression, ensure every woman can choose where they give birth, and ensure every woman has a named midwife when they give birth.

Dr Poulter said: “A new arrival in the family is a joyous time, but can present challenges for mums and families, particularly new families. I want to help women and their partners as much as possible.

“There will now be £25m available to improve maternity facilities, but not a penny of this will be given out unless there is evidence that women have been asked about the changes they want in their local areas, whether it’s more en-suite facilities, overnight rooms for dads, birthing pools, or other improvements to the care and experience of women during pregnancy and childbirth.”

In healthcare settings the environment can support recovery and wellbeing and has a real effect on patients’ perception of the care they receive. This goes beyond the necessity for cleanliness, infection control and the preservation of an individual’s privacy and dignity, to creating spaces that are fit for purpose and comfortable

Commenting on the positive impact the environment can have on mums-to-be, a spokesman for the Enhancing the Healing Environment project at The King’s Fund, said: “The environments in which we live and work have a profound influence on our physical and psychological wellbeing. In healthcare settings the environment can support recovery and wellbeing and has a real effect on patients’ perception of the care they receive. This goes beyond the necessity for cleanliness, infection control and the preservation of an individual’s privacy and dignity, to creating spaces that are fit for purpose and comfortable.

“Research has repeatedly confirmed that a supportive and welcoming environment can have positive effects on both those who visit hospitals – whether as patients or visitors – and those who work in them.

“Improvements to the physical environment can also act as a catalyst to practice and service improvement. Improved environments can transform the patient experience, humanise care, reduce accidents and incidents, and increase staff morale.”

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