Minister for Health Leo Varadkar launched Ireland’s first National Maternity Strategy – Creating a Better Future Together which is a roadmap for the improvement of services over the next ten years.
The Strategy sets out to build on the good maternity services we already have in Ireland and restore confidence in them by raising quality and making them as safe as possible across all units, and by creating a partnership approach with expectant mothers. Considerable investment has been made in our maternity services in recent years and the Strategy provides further evidence of our very firm commitment to the development and improvement of services.
It sets out a vision of maternity services that is about safety, quality and choice, and that places women very firmly at the centre of the service.
The Strategy identifies four priorities:
A Health & Wellbeing approach should be adopted to ensure that babies get the best start in life. Mothers and families should be supported and empowered to improve their own health and wellbeing;
Women should have access to safe, high-quality, nationally consistent, woman-centred maternity care;
Pregnancy and birth should be recognised as a normal physiological process, and insofar as it is safe to do so, a woman’s choice in pregnancy and childbirth should be facilitated;
Maternity services should be appropriately resourced, underpinned by strong and effective leadership, management and governance arrangements, and delivered by a skilled and competent workforce, in partnership with women.
The Strategy will be delivered through a new National Women & Infants’ Health Programme, and care in each case will be offered by multi-disciplinary teams. A new community midwifery service will be developed. Expectant mothers will be offered choices about their care during pregnancy and birth, ranging from home birth to specialised assistance, depending on the level of risk involved in each case.
The HIQA Report into the death of Savita Halappanavar recommended that a strategy be developed to implement standard, consistent models for the delivery of a national maternity service that reflects best available evidence, to ensure that all pregnant women have appropriate and informed choices, and access to the right level of care and support.