A statement from The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts:
I believe women should have the right to give birth in a safe environment in the place where they feel most comfortable, so I share the Department of Health’s aspirations for maternity services. However, these aspirations have not been underpinned by a feasible delivery strategy, or in fact, any clear priorities at all. It appears that the Department has set very loose objectives with only minimal thought as to how they will be delivered, and even less on how it will measure progress.
While I am pleased that the number of midwives has increased, I am very concerned that the NHS still has over 2,000 fewer midwives than needed. I was also shocked to discover that England has a much higher perinatal mortality rate than the rest of the United Kingdom.
I find it absolutely scandalous that one fifth of all funding for maternity services, equivalent to around £700 per birth, is spent on clinical negligence cover. The current system is not working as it should. The Department needs to buck up and take responsibility for this. It needs to review its monitoring and reporting process to ensure that all relevant bodies can work effectively together to deliver maternity services that are value for money and fit for purpose.