Pregnant women feel abandoned by NHS
The declining role of GPs in maternity care is leading to some pregnant women feeling “abandoned” by the system, a leading think-tank has claimed.
Often expectant mothers do not know who to turn to if they suffer health problems during pregnancy, according to The King’s Fund.
Although family doctors frequently know a woman’s medical history best, their role in pregnancy care has become sidelined in recent decades, found the authors of the report, The role of GPs in maternity care – what does the future hold?
The King’s Fund concluded that GPs’ role in maternity care had “all but disappeared over the past 30 years, with recent policy and guidance omitting any reference to their role in caring for pregnant women”.
“Under the terms of the new GP contract introduced in 2004, GPs are no longer paid for each pregnant woman they look after,” it noted.
“In addition, many GPs have opted out of providing out-of-hours care, resulting in sick pregnant women going to A&E with pregnancy-related problems – or simply not knowing what to do if they are ill.”
Nick Goodwin, director of the Fund’s GP Inquiry, said such care was increasingly dealt with by specialists, which had led to a less connected service for pregnant women.
He said: “As a result of that you get reports that some mothers feel a bit abandoned at the beginning of their pregnancy. Who is looking after them?”
Sometimes pregnant women’s other health needs – like mental health issues and obesity – were not being dealt with, he said.
“More needs to be done to make sure that the whole person is treated.”
The report proposed that GPs should now take “a more active role”.
Anna Dixon, lead author of the report and director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: “It is right that those with specialist skills, such as midwives and obstetricians, take the lead role in caring for pregnant women but GPs have a vital role to play in pre-conception and shared ante-natal and post-natal care.”
The report has been widely welcomed by GPs’ groups.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee, said: “GPs want to be more involved in maternity care because they see it as an important part of their job.”
Prof Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, welcomed the “timely” report, saying it made “a very compelling case for GPs to play a more central role”.
However, Belinda Phipps chairman of the National Childbirth Trust, which campaigns for less medical intervention during pregnancy and birth, said it would be better to “actively promote midwife-led care to women”.
Tags: BMA, Doctors, GPs, maternity, NHS Opt Out, opt out, pregnancy, Sexual health