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Staff and team work will improve maternity services

A recent report revealed that the general sentiment amongst hospital managers and healthcare professionals is that improvements are still needed in our maternity services.

Many of us are already working at full tilt in the NHS, so what more, especially in the current economic climate, could feasibly be done? 

Some matters are beyond our control – the year-on-year rise in the birth rate and subsequent increase in the number of complicated pregnancies within the general population (resulting mainly from lifestyle changes) and Working Time Directive compliance for instance. What these developments all point to is the urgent need for adequate staffing in our maternity units. We need more midwives to provide one-to-one midwifery care to women throughout their pregnancy and more consultant presence in the labour ward to ensure round-the-clock care.

More importantly, we need to work together as a team so that women receive the best care available to them.

This leads us to the issue of leadership. Good, solid working relationships within the obstetric workforce, between ourselves and our midwifery, anaesthetist and neonatal colleagues, helps improve the quality of services and this in turn enhances women’s experiences. This can be done through active collaboration, good communication and the sharing of knowledge so that we can all learn from one another and develop best practice models of care. Leadership attributes may not be present in everyone but it is something which could be cultivated in individuals.           

There is talk that the NHS is beginning to clamp down on the amount of time doctors spend on non-clinical duties outside their trusts. There are good reasons why this is happening. Staff shortages and increasing workloads mean that doctors are needed in their hospitals. However, new regulation on medical revalidation means that doctors need to demonstrate they are up-to-speed in their knowledge and skills. But how do you develop that if you are in your trust all day interacting with the same people?

A lot of good work occurs outside of trusts, for example in Department of Health and NHS working parties, royal college committees and expert groups. Whether engaging in research, formulating policy, auditing practice or producing clinical guidelines, contribution often results in improved standards in healthcare provision.

It would be short-sighted if NHS managers restricted the amount of external work doctors do (and I am not referring to private practice), since the experiences gained from being involved in these activities are transferable into doctors’ professional lives. If the long-term aim is to help develop clinician’s leadership abilities, then doctors should be supported by their trusts to undertake these activities.

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