NHS England has published its Maternity Transformation Programme to improve maternity services in England. This follows the publication in February 2016 of the National Maternity Review report, ‘Better Births – improving outcomes of maternity services in England’ which looked at maternity care standards in England and assessed how providers could best deliver safer, more personalised care.

The Programme is designed to test new ways of working for maternity services in England and sets out nine working areas identified in the Better Births review report.

“Promoting good practice for safer care” is one of the working areas NHS England considers that “safety is a key theme throughout the Maternity Transformation Programme”. NHS England wants to “ensure widespread dissemination and adoption of best practice”. Another working area is “improving prevention”. Here, Public Health England is “leading work to prevent poor outcomes through actions to improve women’s health before, during and after pregnancy to ensure that families get off to the best start possible.”

As part of the implementation of the Maternity Transformation Programme, NHS England has called for local areas to become ‘early adopters’ by trialling its recommendations. The plan is for these areas to “play a key role delivering action quickly”. The experience of the early adopters is intended "to pave the way for national roll-out of initiatives.” Each area will set up Local Maternity Systems which will “ensure that women and their babies receive safe, more personalised care that suits the needs of the local community.” There will also be new community hubs, “one stop shops” to provide antenatal and postnatal services, other health and social services.

NHS England is working with a number of organisations including Public Health England, the Royal Colleges, NHS Improvement, the Department of Health, and Health Education England.

The chair of the Maternity Transformation board, Sarah-Jane Marsh said: “Better Births has given us a powerful blueprint for how we can move towards safer, more personalised maternity services in England… We are resolute in our determination to implement this vision and move forward at a pace.”

Camilla Wonnacott, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches said: “Plans to improve the safety of births in England, for both mother and baby, are very welcome. Sadly, we see the consequences of stretched resources, exhausted staff and lack of sufficient training and supervision in maternity care. There is still an urgent need to focus on ensuring that medical accidents involving injuries to babies both during and shortly after birth - including the unbearable tragedy of a stillbirth or a neonatal death - and injuries to young mothers are prevented.”