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Long-awaited National Maternity Strategy implementation plan is launched

This morning the document was launched by Minister for Health Simon Harris. It sets out a series of detailed actions with specific timeframes relating to the recommendations of the National Maternity Strategy.

Key developments to be achieved in the implementation plan include implementing the supported care pathway across all maternity networks; training staff to support and empower women and infants to improve their health and wellbeing; access to dating and anomaly scanning in all maternity units; introduction of a Serious Incident Management Forum, specifically for maternity services, in all maternity networks; and ecruitment of key midwifery and medical staffing to support the vision of the Strategy.

A new National Women and Infants Health Programme Office has been established by the HSE. This office will have responsibility for implementing and delivering the plan. Mr Kilian McGrane, National Director of the National Women and Infants Health Programme, stated: “The National Maternity Strategy signals one of the most significant transformations in maternity care ever seen in Ireland. In the same way that the National Cancer Control Programme has transformed our approach to cancer services the National Women and Infants Health Programme provides us with the best opportunity to do the same for maternity services.”

Dr Peter McKenna, former Master of the Rotunda, is the Clinical Director for the programme, and Ms Angela Dunne, former Director of Midwifery in Portlaoise, is Director of Midwifery.

The plan follows the format of the National Maternity Strategy, and three different pathways of care are identified: supported care, assisted care and specialised care.

Ms Dunne explained: “Our focus will be on providing choice for women and empowering women to access the right pathway for them. We also need to ensure that when things go wrong we have a consistent approach to investigating and learning from those incidents and providing accurate and timely information to families across all maternity units. We need to build public confidence in our maternity services, ensure greater choice for women and provide appropriate care in the right place at the right time.”

Dr McKenna outlined that “it is essential as we move towards the new model of care, we improve how we deal with, and learn from adverse incidents. Adverse events in maternity services have devastating consequences, and the programme will focus on improving our review processes, and ensuring that the learning is shared across all our units.”

Minister Harris stated: “This is a very significant day for the future of our maternity services in this country and a key step on the road towards an Ireland where we ensure that all women and babies have access to safe, high-quality care. I look forward to seeing the National Women and Infants Health Programme drive implementation of the Maternity Strategy in every corner of the country. To do this they will need champions in each of our maternity units to encourage and bring forward change at local level. I have no doubt that our staff will not be found wanting and will support the Programme to deliver the safe, high quality maternity service envisioned in the Strategy.”

Significant work has already been undertaken in terms of implementing the plan, according to the HSE. This includes the process of establishing maternity networks across Hospital Groups, the appointment of Directors of Midwifery at all maternity units, the introduction of Bereavement Guidelines following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death in all maternity units, and the rollout of the Maternal and Newborn Clinical Management System in hospitals in Cork and Kerry.

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