National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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Setting standards for antenatal care

NICE has produced a quality standard on antenatal care to help improve the care that women receive during their pregnancy.

While the majority of women in the UK have pregnancies without complications, problems during pregnancy do occur.

Miscarriage, fetal growth restriction and preterm birth are common, and rates of stillbirth have changed very little in in recent years.

Furthermore, research shows that there still work to be done to ensure government pledges on maternity care are being met.

A recent survey from the Royal College of Midwives found that 47 per cent of respondents would have liked to have spent more time with their midwife during pregnancy.

Additionally, despite two-thirds of women stating they knew the name of their midwife, nearly a third said they always saw a different midwife during pregnancy and postnatal care.

NICE's quality standard on antenatal care contains 12 quality statements that describe high-quality, cost-effective aspects of care that should be prioritised to improve the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for pregnant women.

Statements include that pregnant women are cared for by one named midwife throughout their pregnancy, and that pregnant women have a complete record of the minimum set of antenatal test results in their hand-held maternity notes.

Additional statements cover assessments for pregnant women at risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and blood clots.

The quality standard also includes a statement that pregnant women with a body mass of index of 30 kg/m2 or more at the booking appointment are offered personalised advice from an appropriately trained person on healthy eating and physical activity.

Dr Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: "This new quality standard identifies 12 key priority areas of routine care that healthy women should expect to receive during their pregnancy, including screening tests for complications.

"It includes a set of measures to enable commissioners and providers to track ongoing achievement against this standard.

"The new quality standard also firmly places women at the centre of decision making about their care, ensuring they are provided with up to date information to enable them to make informed decisions in partnership with healthcare professionals about their care and treatment."

David Richmond, Vice President (Clinical Quality) of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said: "We welcome these important antenatal standards, based on existing guidelines.

"Implementation will be the key and all hospitals must be encouraged to adhere to them so that high quality care can be provided to a woman throughout her pregnancy.

"The RCOG believes that women's healthcare, organised in managed clinical networks across the country, are the best model for the NHS to adopt."

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