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Expectant mothers are to be provided with a maternity budget of around £3,000 to buy their own NHS services, a new review has claimed. Under proposed plans by the National Maternity Review, mums-to-be would be able to use this budget to ensure that they get the care they want, covering such things as the use of birthing pools and one-to-one midwifery care.

These plans come as part of a shake-up to help increase the amount of choice women have when it comes to NHS maternity services.

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The system for maternity care is to be piloted later this year and is expected to be rolled out nationally in 2017. It will give women a budget that they can then use on a number of NHS accredited services, and these could include:

• A home birth

• Private midwifery services

• Use of a birthing pool

• Hypnotherapy

• Additional breastfeeding support after birth

This scheme is designed to give women more choice over where and how they give birth.

The authors of National Maternity Review said that low-risk standard births cost the NHS around £3,000, so this sum is what women could expect to be able to spend on their care. These proposals have been compared to personal health budgets, which enable people with disabilities or long-term conditions to have certain controls over how the money for their care is spent.

One aim of this overhaul is to improve safety in maternity services, after evidence from families concluded that they “did not always have confidence” in the maternity care that they received. Women in particular, complained about the lack of choice given for where and how they give birth.

Nearly nine in 10 women give birth in hospital, even though just one in four say that this is where they would want to have their baby. A conclusion of the review suggested that it should not be an automatic assumption that a woman would always give birth in hospital.

Baroness Julia Cumberlege, Chair of the Maternity Review said: “To be among the best in the world, we need to put women, babies and their families at the centre of their care. It is so important that they are supported through what can be a wonderful and life-changing experience.”

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