England’s chief nurse has announced £52million to fast track the provision of online maternity records which will be overseen by the first national digital midwife.
Speaking today at the NHS Confed Conference, Ruth May said “bulky paper records would soon be banished” in a bid to give expectant parents access to medical information through their phones or other electronic devices.
To help provide a cohesive national leadership in digitising maternity services, NHS England and NHSX have appointed Julia Gudgeon as the first national digital midwife.
Gudgeon will work with NHS chief midwife Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent and be part of NHSX’s Digital Child Health and Maternity Team, which is supporting the delivery of enhanced digital services for maternity services.
The £52million funding backs a Long Term Plan commitment to ensure everyone will have access to their maternity notes and information electronically by 2023/24.
May said: “Giving women easy access to their maternity records, whether on a smart phone or online, allows them to take full control of their pregnancy journey by having all the information and decisions about their care at their fingertips.
“Midwives, GPs, and other clinicians caring for a pregnant woman will also have easy access to information, no matter where or when the mum-to-be is seen.
“Not only will this help improve the experience for women by reducing the burden of repeating information to each healthcare professional that they see throughout their pregnancy, but it will also improve safety. It will help us to ensure the best health and care outcomes by preventing important details from being missed.”
Some NHS trusts in England already have digital maternity services in place, but this new system will be the “gold standard” to ensure no variations in quality country-wide, according to a statement from NHS Digital.
NHS England and NHSX will work with maternity service providers; local maternity and neonatal systems; and integrated care systems, as well as suppliers, to develop the best platform for clinicians and patients.
NHS chief midwife Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent added: “The records will allow women to easily access data about their pregnancy as well as curated information about wider issues around pregnancy in order to make well-informed decisions.
“As we continue to implement the NHS Long Term Plan, it is right that digital maternity is being fast-tracked so that women, as well as midwives and their colleagues, across the country will get the support they need to deliver the best start in life for every child.”
This latest round of funding for maternity services follows a promise from the government to bring forward the digitisation of child health records.
The government announced in March it was bringing forward work to digitise the records, often referred to as the ‘Red Book’, which also contains babies’ information about their growth and development.
This will apply to every new birth from April 2023, a year earlier than originally planned. The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, promised a digital version of the ‘Red Book’ would be made available to the whole country by 2023/24.