Varadkar Publishes Ireland's First National Maternity Strategy

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has announced Ireland's first National Maternity Strategy, described as a "roadmap for the improvement of services over the next ten years".

Announcing the the National Maternity Strategy – Creating a Better Future Together, Minister Varadkar said that it "sets out to build on the good maternity services we already have in Ireland and restore confidence in them by raising quality and making them as safe as possible across all units, and by creating a partnership approach with expectant mothers".

"I am delighted to launch the country's first National Maternity Strategy. It was my privilege to present it to Government for approval. This Government has made considerable investment in our maternity services in recent years and the Strategy provides further evidence of our very firm commitment to the development and improvement of services. It sets out a vision of maternity services that is about safety, quality and choice, and that places women very firmly at the centre of the service. I will advocate for it and work for its full implementation. In fact, we've already started," Minister Varadkar said.

The Strategy identifies four priorities:

• A Health & Wellbeing approach should be adopted to ensure that babies get the best start in life. Mothers and families should be supported and empowered to improve their own health and wellbeing;

• Women should have access to safe, high-quality, nationally consistent, woman-centred maternity care;

• Pregnancy and birth should be recognised as a normal physiological process, and insofar as it is safe to do so, a woman's choice in pregnancy and childbirth should be facilitated;

• Maternity services should be appropriately resourced, underpinned by strong and effective leadership, management and governance arrangements, and delivered by a skilled and competent workforce, in partnership with women.

The Strategy is to be delivered through a new National Women & Infants' Health Programme, and care in each case will be offered by multi-disciplinary teams. A new community midwifery service will be developed. Expectant mothers will be offered choices about their care during pregnancy and birth, ranging from home birth to specialised assistance, depending on the level of risk involved in each case.

The strategy was drafted by a 31 member Steering Group. The Chair of the Steering Group Sylda Langford said: "The way the Steering Group came together and agreed a new approach, augers well for the future of maternity services in Ireland. I urge them all to become champions for the strategy within their own service, and help ensure that it is implemented with the same driving passion that was so prevalent at our meetings."


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