31 Oct 2022

In September, I shared the work of a charities’ and service users’ network committed to the implementation of maternity continuity of carer, at an international research conference in Aarhus, Denmark. Jo Dagustun, a volunteer with AIMS, a maternity charity, worked with me to develop the slides and we shared several iterations with 11 other organisations, who contributed comments. Then, there was further discussion and agreement at an online meeting before the public presentation.

 

The ‘E’ in PPIE (Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement) in research is about sharing research findings with the public, an element of the involvement and engagement process that is often neglected.

Mary Newburn, maternity and perinatal mental health, public involvement lead

Mary Newburn, patient and public involvement and engagement lead, ARC South London's maternity and perinatal mental health theme

Studies are frequently not funded to include detailed public sharing, or ‘dissemination’ work. Researchers are often busy with their next funding application or other work commitments. We wanted to show researchers how important it is to devote time and resources to engaging with the public and service users to share what research studies reveal. 

The purpose of presenting at the conference included encouraging a large international group of researchers to involve ‘communities of interest’ in dissemination. Ideally, this will be continuing, two-way, discussions about the relevance and significance of emerging findings and the next phase of research questions.

Our network, a community of interest, brings together people with diverse primary concerns including reducing stillbirths, improving perinatal mental health, human rights in childbirth and physiological birth. Many interested charities and service users do not have awareness - or detailed and confident knowledge - of the evidence on midwifery continuity of carer (MCoC), which includes referrals to linked multi-disciplinary team colleagues when additional care is needed.

We are working together to share knowledge, identify next phase questions and to work with policymakers and service providers to ensure that women and families, especially those with social complexity, experiencing discrimination or living in areas of deprivation, including Black, Asian and mixed ethnicity families, receive continuity as an implementation priority.

The presentation, now notes that due to severe staffing pressures national policy in England has been changed since we presented in mid-September. Unfortunately, there is no longer a target date for midwifery continuity to be the default model of care available to all pregnant women in England.

However, the NHS Long Term Plan includes a commitment to “implement an enhanced and targeted continuity of carer model to help improve outcomes for the most vulnerable mothers and babies”, and is part of the ‘Core20PLUS5’ strategy to reduce health inequalities. A new programme of maternity continuity of carer implementation evaluation and further research has also been announced.