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More personalised model of maternity care officially launched in Northern Ireland

Maria McIlgorm (NI Chief Nursing Officer); Aine Edwards and Bevin O’Donnell (Maternity Service Users); Dr Dale Spence (Midwifery Officer, Department of Health)
Maria McIlgorm (NI Chief Nursing Officer); Aine Edwards and Bevin O’Donnell (Maternity Service Users); Dr Dale Spence (Midwifery Officer, Department of Health)

A more personalised, integrated model of maternity care has been officially launched in Northern Ireland.

The Continuity of Midwifery Carer (CoMC) model provides a woman with care from the same midwife or team of midwives during pregnancy, birth and the early parenting period, as well as obstetric and other specialist care as needed.

CoMC is being rolled out across Northern Ireland’s five Health and Social Care Trusts.

At a launch event in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Chief Nursing Officer Maria McIlgorm said the model’s introduction was a very positive development for maternity services in Northern Ireland.

“The establishment of a regional CoMC model of care will benefit users of maternity services across Northern Ireland, improve care for expectant mothers and babies, and contribute to improved population health,” Ms McIlgorm said.

Evidence concludes that midwife continuity of carer models reduces interventions, improves clinical outcomes and women’s experiences.

The CoMC programme plan sets out indicative milestones for implementing and evaluating a single regional CoMC model in Northern Ireland.

The programme is currently in phase two, which is the implementation of small-scale CoMC teams across the five Health Trusts.

Bevin O’Donnell, who had her baby in the Northern HSC Trust, said it had been a wonderful experience.

“I was able to quickly develop a strong, trusting relationship with my fantastic named midwife,” Ms O’Donnell said.

“During my pregnancy, we fully discussed my choices, preferences and concerns, giving me confidence for the journey ahead. Throughout all stages of my care I felt supported as the primary decision maker.

“I would highly recommend the continuity of carer model. It leads to safe, patient-centred care that empowers women. It is a fantastic service that should be the norm for all.”

Michelle Harrison, Midwife Consultant (Continuity of Midwifery Carer) at the Public Health Agency, said: “Each HSC Trust in Northern Ireland has been forging ahead to ensure that the essential building blocks are in place to support the implementation of this new model of care.

“Over the next few months it is anticipated that all HSC Trusts will have at least one team established.

“Women will be able to decide if they wish to benefit from this model of care and will meet their named midwife at their antenatal booking appointment.

“The CoMC Team will provide 24/7 availability for labour and birth and will support women in all birth choice settings. The named midwife will also support a woman during discharge from hospital, if that is where she had her baby, will visit her at home after the birth, and will co-ordinate the handover of care to the Health Visitor, to ensure the mother and baby get the care they need.”

Dr Dale Spence, Midwifery Officer at the Department of Health, said the evidence indicated that midwives working in this model experience greater professional satisfaction, autonomy and empowerment, reduced burnout and more manageable caseloads.

“This is a proud moment for women, midwives, and maternity services in Northern Ireland,” Dr Spence said.

“Implementation of the CoMC model in Northern Ireland demonstrates the efforts to action critical evidence towards meaningful change for our profession, but also importantly, for the women and families for whom we care.”

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