The Welsh government is investing £7m to create a unified digital system for country-wide maternity services, which is set to improve the care that women and their babies receive.
Under the new digital system, vital information about the health of pregnant women and their unborn babies will be shared quickly. In addition, the new system will support the delivery of timely messages to expectant mums to help support a healthy pregnancy. Plus mothers-to-be will also gain access to their records.
The programme was announced by Health Minister Eluned Morgan, who stated: “Several recent reviews of maternity services in Wales and the UK have called for the creation of a unified digital system.”
Currently, the various Welsh health boards use different systems – both digital and paper-based. The creation of a single, digital system for Wales means that healthcare professionals can quickly share vital information with other professionals involved in a woman’s care., which will support safe, effective and seamless care while also reducing the risk of potential complications.
The move will be welcomed by many, who believe the digitisation of maternity records is long overdue.
The system is anticipated to be rolled out across the country within the next two to three years. Formal procurement has yet to start, but a discovery project has already seen engagement with clinicians and service users to understand their views.
A market assessment has also been completed by a digital maternity programme team, to better understand the potential options for solutions.
Morgan continued: “This new system will be safer and more efficient thanks to faster, better information sharing.
“It will give women much more control over their maternity records and allow them to feedback to midwives and doctors much faster, via an app that will have records of all their discussions with health professionals.
“Improvements in accuracy of data collection will also allow health boards to better plan services.”
Once rolled out the new digital solution will allow pregnant patients digital access to their maternity notes via the NHS Wales App and website. The NHS Wales App is currently in beta phase with 1,000 patients now trialling it.
Digital access for Welsh patients will include the ability for patients to receive relevant health advice, reminders and important medical messages.
Sue Tranka, chief nursing officer for Wales, said: “During the course of their pregnancy, women will see several different midwives and doctors sometimes across different health boards, so having one all-Wales digital system will make the journey much smoother.
“It will also reduce bureaucracy and duplication, freeing up more time for those health professionals to focus on people.
“Via the App we will be able to send pregnant women health advice, reminders for things like getting flu jabs as well as important personal medical messages.”
The Welsh plan echoes a similar approach for England – where £52m was earmarked for the provision of online maternity records in 2021. This funding supports a Long Term Plan commitment to enable electronic access to maternity notes for all by 2023/24.