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Pre-natal and Post-natal Care

Volume 564: debated on Tuesday 11 June 2013

2. What steps his Department is taking to ensure consistent and continuous provision of pre-natal and post-natal care. (158867)

The Government are committed to improving continuity of care during pregnancy and the post-natal period. To give women the personalised care that they deserve, we have increased the number of midwives by nearly 1,400 and the number of health visitors by more than 1,000 since May 2010. In addition, there are a record 5,000 midwives in training.

Will my hon. Friend visit Southend university hospital, and tell residents at first hand what steps the Government are taking to ensure that post-natal care meets clinical guidance and the Government’s aspirations to ensure that the maternity experience is continuous, with patients having one dedicated midwife?

I would be delighted to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. He has been a tremendous advocate for maternity services, both nationally and in his constituency, in his time in the House. As I am sure that he has realised, if we want a genuinely personalised maternity service, we need to ask women about their experiences of care. That is why the Government are introducing a friends and family test in maternity from October this year.

The Minister knows full well that post-natal depression is the thing that is most likely to kill a healthy young woman, and we know how to deal with it, but in many areas across the country we are cutting the number of visits from midwives after births, and the support given. We know how to tackle post-natal depression. Why should it be that in some parts of the country the support is wonderful, and in others, it is non-existent?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight that there has, in the past, sometimes been unacceptable variation in the quality of post-natal care. That is why we are increasing the number of midwives and have done so by nearly 1,400, and why we are putting money and effort into increasing the number of health visitors, who play a vital role in supporting mums, babies and families in securing that important bond, and in supporting mums so that they get the right help when they suffer from post-natal depression.