Our new maternity profiles which show, for the first time, a comprehensive local maternity picture for each London borough have been released.
The pathway profiles give local, antenatal, delivery and postnatal outcome information with regional and national comparisons. This information can be used to help policy makers and commissioners find out about maternity trends in their areas and offer the best possible service to mothers and babies in the capital.
The profiles show that key NHS messages in London over the past few years are helping babies to have a healthier start in life, although it is a variable picture across the capital. London has the lowest overall rate of smoking during pregnancy in the country. Stopping smoking during pregnancy reduces complications and the likelihood of children developing certain diseases. London also has the highest numbers in the country of women who breastfeed, which can also reduce the risk of babies developing certain diseases.
The maternity profiles also highlight that variation between areas exists. For example:
The safety of women and their babies is a top priority for the NHS in London. NHS London is committed to supporting people to stop smoking and to breasfeed their babies, and has dedicated programmes to assist pregnant women. Information from the profiles may inform local campaigns to encourage women to access support as soon as they know they are pregnant to reduce risk to themselves and their babies.
London Health Programmes is using the profiles to inform work with maternity experts across the capital to develop clinical commissioning standards on specific parts of the maternity care pathway that require care from acute clinicians. This includes labour and delivery antenatal referrals and admissions, and immediate postnatal care.
London Health Programmes Director Michael Wilson said: “We hope that the profiles will inform more maternity service improvements across London. The profiles benchmark areas of strength and highlight where improvement is needed. We hope that they will be very useful to those in the public health and clinical commissioning fields. Several local areas are already using the profile data to improve local services.”
Trish Morris-Thompson, chief nurse at NHS London, said: “Giving pregnant women the right care and support at the earliest available opportunity to ensure babies have the best start in life is a priority for NHS London.
“In London we have worked hard to give women support at the start of their pregnancy, launching a programme to encourage women to have their first booking appointment before they reach 12 weeks, where they can discuss lifestyle factors such as diet and alcohol and smoking intake as well as consider screening. We are aware of the impact of these lifestyle factors on the development of the baby and on avoiding later complications in pregnancy. We welcome the publication of these profiles which for example highlight the need for women to engage with antenatal services and show areas in London where we are doing well and where we need to improve.
“We have increased the number of midwives we employ, funding an extra 1,000 midwife posts in the last two years to match the increase in births in the capital and reduce our midwife : birth ratios, which are now largely in line with the national average. We have also worked on a programme to ensure all women in London have a choice of place of birth, including home birth and midwifery led care. This ensures women who are identified as low risk are offered midwifery led care, easing pressure in the high risk facilities enabling us to improve obstetric cover and 1:1 care.”
“All births should be healthy and happy occasions, and by finding out what we are doing well in areas of London and where extra support is needed, we can work to ensure a continuing high standard of maternity care in London.”
The profiles are an enhancement to London Health Programme’s Health Needs Assessment Toolkit. Each profile is tailor-made to each local authority with content presented in easy to understand formats, such as a map detailing local birth rates, an at–a-glance view of indicators, an analysis of spend and outcomes, a chart showing within-area inequalities and individual data commentaries for each local authority area.