Tory NHS aims downgraded as midwives praise Government on maternity care

The Royal College of Midwives has praised the Government's record on maternity care, saying it is hard to see how the proposed Tory NHS changes would happen.

Following David Cameron’s u-turn yesterday on marriage taxes, reported by Left Foot Forward, holes have begun to emerge in the Conservative party’s draft NHS manifesto, published this week.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had pledged to create an extra 45,000 single rooms by the end of the first term of a Tory Government, at a cost of £1.5 billion, brushing off criticisms it could not be funded – this has now been downgraded to an unspecified increase “as resources allow”.

The manifesto also pledges the party to merely scrapping all “politically motivated process targets”. Mr Lansley had previously vowed to scrap “all central government health targets”, another apparent watering-down of Tory policy.

On maternity care, the Royal College of Midwives dealt a blow to Mr Cameron’s pledge to make services “more personal and more local”, saying “it is hard to see how the changes the Conservatives are proposing for maternity services will happen”. The RCM added:

“The Government is committed to midwifery-led services, to women having choice, to user-involvement and to reducing unnecessary interventions and health inequalities. The NHS’s Operating Framework for 2010/11 stresses the Government’s commitment to maternity services and to linking payment for services to quality and patient satisfaction. The Government is also currently considering how to ensure that the payment system for services helps to deliver their policy for maternity services. It, therefore, is difficult to see exactly what is different in the Conservative Party’s promise for maternity services.

“The rising birth rate has undoubtedly made it difficult for the Government’s maternity policy commitments to be fully implemented but the RCM believes that change is starting to happen. The question is whether or not this can be sustained in the current economic downturn. Midwifery-led units are not closed because of Government policies. They are closed because local maternity service providers face an unprecedented challenge to maintain a full range of choice of services for women in the face of economic pressures.”

And, in an article for Progress, Paul Corrigan – former Director of NHS London and health policy adviser to Tony Blair – says:

“Their policies contain straightforward themes of public service reform, but their problem is caused by the contradiction between their policies and their politics … Andrew Lansley commits himself to stopping changes to maternity services in Bury by saying: ‘I will have the power to do that within days if we are elected.’ But this is not in fact true because he will be elected on a policy of removing that power from himself.

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