HC Deb 29 February 2000 vol 345 cc137-9
1. Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester)

What progress has been made since May 1997 in extending team midwifery. [110853]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper)

The last Department of Health survey of the extent of team midwifery was published in 1993. At present, there is no accurate information on the extent of team midwifery nationwide. That is why we have recently commissioned a comprehensive review of midwifery organisation locally. It will also examine the impact of different models of midwife care and report by the end of the year.

Mr. Russell

Does the Minister accept that the changing child birth project resulted from a Select Committee on Health report and was introduced under the previous Government, but instead of extending women's choice and providing the best possible service for expectant mothers, are not the Government reducing child care, particularly by the midwifery service? I draw her attention in particular to the Iceni midwifery team in Colchester, which is threatened with disbandment.

Yvette Cooper

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The Government are strongly committed to the values behind the changing child birth project, focusing on the women involved and keeping them at the centre of maternity services.

I am aware of the situation with regard to the Iceni team and that various options are being examined locally. Obviously, it would be wrong of a Minister to pre-empt any local consultation that needs to take place, but I have benefited from team midwifery in Pontefract and so am well aware of the benefits that team midwifery can provide as one model of midwife care.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

Is my hon. Friend aware that in St. George's hospital, which is in my constituency, there is an excellent midwifery unit? On a recent visit there I saw the work that was being done, but it was pointed out to me that, sadly, local general practitioners are not always fully aware of the services that are on offer. Will she look at that matter?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Tooting service is a great model of best practice from which people throughout the country can learn. The Government are strongly committed to having GPs, primary care groups and acute trusts working closely together to ensure that the best quality maternity care is provided for all women, wherever they should want it.

Mrs. Marion Roe (Broxbourne)

Does the Minister accept that there is serious concern among pregnant women, particularly those who will become first-time mothers, that there is a possibility that they will be left alone during labour because of a shortage of midwives? Will she outline the Government's strategy for recruiting more midwives, thus ensuring that maternity services are good, reliable and give confidence to those who are about to face motherhood?

Yvette Cooper

I can certainly reassure all first-time mothers and all mothers to be that the Department expects any woman who is in established labour who needs or who wants support to have it. We expect maternity care to be organised accordingly. However, the hon. Lady is right that decisions by the previous Government left us with a shortage of midwives, as well as a shortage of nurses and doctors. Given how long it takes to train midwives, nurses and doctors, we would be in a better situation if the previous Government had got their act together and increased recruitment several years ago.

Since taking office, our national recruitment campaign has been extremely successful. I am glad to say that 2,790 nurses and midwives have already returned to employment in the NHS as a result of the campaign. A further 2,000 are preparing to join. Applications for midwifery courses in particular have risen significantly this year. We are training more pre-registration students. The figure has increased year on year, and we are now training 70 per cent. more than in 1993–94.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in most normal births, any midwife is worth a dozen doctors? If she is genuinely concerned, will she not just recruit new midwives, but look at the terms and conditions of existing midwives and ensure that those excellent and essential ladies are still knocking around, irrespective of what the doctors want?

Yvette Cooper

My hon. Friend is right that we need to ensure that midwives' terms and conditions are such that we sustain their recruitment—we do not simply recruit them, but keep them in the profession. That is why, for example, the NHS is increasing family friendly employment policies to promote things such as part-time working and to encourage midwives to stay in the profession.

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