A new team of midwives has been established to ensure more women in Central Lancashire see the same healthcare professionals throughout their pregnancies.
NHS trusts across England were set a target to provide so-called ‘continuity of care’ for at least one in five pregnant women by the end of last month.
The Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals exceeded the required proportion of patients being given that guarantee about who will be looking after them - before, during and after the births of their children.
But papers presented to a board meeting of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, which runs the two facilities, reveal that the organisation will find it “more difficult” to hit a further target of offering continuity to half of all pregnant women by March 2021 - and is likely to require further investment as a result.
“This is a huge change for staff and a lot of them are finding this flexible way of working challenging,” Cathy Atherton, the trust's head of midwifery, said.
“We now have a bespoke set of midwives who care for their own women and will completely follow them throughout their pregnancies. They’ll be on call for them when they’re giving birth and [will work] over a [given] geographical area,” she explained.
A second midwifery team is also being set up to look after women expected to face complex pregnancies either because of their own pre-existing health conditions or diagnosed problems with their babies. Details of how this aspect of the service will operate have yet to be finalised.
Board members heard that there are gaps in the middle grade rotas which mean more senior clinicians are having to “act down” on occasions.
“We’ve got a great set of neonatal consultants that are very committed to keeping the service running - but we realise that’s not a sustainable [way of operating]”, Ms Atherton said.
"It's a nationwide issue," she added.
Trust chair, Sue Musson, said the recent recruitment of four obstetric consultants was “encouraging”.
“It was a highly competitive process, with a lot of applicants...wanting to come here and develop their careers,” she said.
As part of a national programme to learn from the deaths of babies between 22 weeks’ gestation and birth - and to halve the number of still births in the ten years up to 2025 - the trust has also restated a commitment to review any such incidences at its own maternity units.
“Parents will be asked if they have any concerns and we will encourage them to be part of the investigation and to set the terms of reference,” Ms. Atherton explained.
The board heard that the caesarean section team at the trust recently won the Team of the Year gong in the annual British Journal of Midwifery Practice Awards.
Staff were honoured for their “outstanding work to enhance the experiences for women and their birth partners when they undergo a caesarean section”.