Don't disappear now the policy's been announced!

without comments

The media spotlight has paused briefly on the issue of maternity care. It’s an issue our new, interactive, experience-led news media is wonderfully placed to deal with. Here’s a subject everyone should care about and an experience which many women have been through.
This is borne out by some decent coverage. The Today Programme’s Listener Panel came into its own with stories from women with very different experiences of maternity care.
And the combination of experience and authority is threaded together in an excellent editorial by Deborah Orr in the Independent. Orr sets her own experience of childbirth (‘absolutely appalling’) in the much larger context of the declining number of specialist birthing units (from 527 in 1973 to 341 in 1996 to 282 in 2004), low relative UK birthweights and a poor infant mortality record (compared to the rest of the EU).
Orr’s piece, combined with the many actual birth stories, exposes how misleading Patricia Hewitt’s policy promise was yesterday. Hewitt pledged that, in future, women would get more choice in how they gave birth and that as a consequence many more would have the opportunity of a home birth (Radio 4 Today Programme).
But as a growing number of reports in the last few weeks have shown (e.g. see Rowan Pelling 10 days ago), without qualified midwife care choice is pointless. And there aren’t enough qualified midwives (Royal College of Midwives calls for 10,000 more).
Unfortunately Hewitt’s focus on the issue of home births distracted many from the substantive issue (see debate on Comment is Free, and Telegraph editorial).
This is an issue that the media can and should have an impact on. My hope is that the spotlight doesn’t disappear just because an eye-catching new policy has been announced.

Written by Martin Moore

April 3rd, 2007 at 1:41 pm

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