26 Apr 2021, 12:09 a.m.

Designated teams of midwives will care for women at all stages throughout their pregnancy, birth and in the early days following birth in a Continuity of Carer scheme being launched in Gloucestershire at the end of April.

The new way of working will initially be offered to parents-to-be in 3 geographical localities before being rolled out more widely over the next year. By March 2022, all 17 teams will have launched across the county, with the expectation that this will have a positive impact on both parents and midwives.

Continuity of Carer is a key recommendation of NHS England’s Better Births report and aims to make maternity care even safer and more personalised. The new way of working means that expectant parents will know the midwives caring for them and offers many benefits, including enabling a stronger relationship between parents-to-be and their midwives which creates an increased level of trust and better communication.

Evidence shows that when people have a midwife who they are familiar with in labour, they are not only less likely to require interventions during pregnancy and birth, but they have a higher level of satisfaction with their care.

There are advantages for midwives too, many of whom feel that the Continuity of Carer enables them to provide more holistic care throughout the whole transition from pregnancy to parenthood thus further developing their relationship with parents to be, which provides a greater level of satisfaction.

Dawn Morrall, Clinical Lead for Gloucestershire Local Maternity and Neonatal System and Better Births Lead said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to make the difference that the evidence tells us is possible. Knowing your midwife can make a significant difference to the overall experience of pregnancy so Continuity of Carer in Gloucestershire is great news for both expectant mums and our midwives. This will also have an impact on reducing pre-term births, hospital admissions and the need for intervention during labour.”

All of our Continuity of Carer teams are named after the established network of children’s centres in the county, with the first 3 trailblazing teams being Bartongate and Lighthouse in Gloucester, and Gardners Lane in Cheltenham. These will be followed by a further 8 in September and the remainder by next March.

Vivien Mortimore, Chief Midwife at Gloucestershire Hospitals, said: “I am really proud of how our team are embracing the transition towards this new way of working, which will provide Continuity of Carer for our women. Midwives and support workers are undertaking additional training so they have all the skills and knowledge to provide care for women from their first appointment until they handover care to the health visitor. I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to get us to this point and enabled us to implement this transformation in the way care is provided .”

As well as facilitating higher satisfaction levels, evidence shows that the Continuity of Carer model means that parents are 16% less likely to lose their baby; 19% less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks; and 24% less likely to experience pre-term birth. The provision of Continuity of Carer should also lead to improved outcomes for vulnerable women and reduce health inequalities for women from minority ethnic backgrounds.

The launch of Continuity of Carer in Gloucestershire has been a collaboration with our Maternity Voices Partnership and our thanks go to them for their ongoing support.

Kathryn Meansworth, Gloucestershire Maternity Voices Partnership Chair, said: “The feedback from families in Gloucestershire says that getting to know your midwife makes a big difference to their overall pregnancy and birth experience.

"I am delighted that Gloucestershire Hospitals has introduced these new teams and is paving the way for other teams to rapidly follow so that all parents-to-be can benefit.”