Pregnant women in the UK will each receive a £3,000 birthing budget to cover the cost of midwives, home births or hypnotherapy. Plans to overhaul the way money is spent on pregnant women come as a part of a shake-up in maternity care, aimed to give women greater autonomy over how they use the services available to them.
An NHS-commissioned independent review of maternity services published on 23 February said that women wanted greater choice over their maternity services with more personalised care from a smaller team of midwives.
The review, chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, also found that mental health care for women pre- and post-natal was 'not good enough' and recommended that care be more personalised, with women having access to an NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget, which would allow them to choose the type of care they wanted.
Introducing the report, Baroness Cumberlege wrote: "We heard that many women are not being offered real choice in the services they can access, and are too often being told what to do, rather than being given information to make their own decisions. Hospital services are at capacity with some running at 100% occupancy too much of the time.
"Yet some community-based services are struggling to survive, while some women are unable to choose the service they want because it sits on the wrong side of an administrative boundary. We found almost total unanimity from mothers that they want their midwife to be with them from the start, through pregnancy, birth and then after birth.
"Time and again mothers said that they hardly ever saw the same professional twice, they found themselves repeating the same story because their notes had not been read. That is unacceptable, inefficient and must change."
The review came following an investigation into a series of deaths of babies at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust which found a litany of failures by the hospital.
In addition, the report said more than £560m was spent every year on compensating families that experience negligible maternity care.
The report suggested four CCGs should pilot the maternity care budget scheme by 2017, at an allocated cost of £600,000, with national roll out expected in 2018/19 if the pilot scheme is successful. Women will not be given the money but it will be used to NHS staff to direct women to whichever services they want to access.