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Beckham could better PCT's best breastfeeding efforts

One picture of Victoria Beckham breastfeeding would do more to turn around the UK's terrible statistics on breastfeeding than any number of ill-conceived PCT schemes, argues The Jobbing Doctor

One picture of Victoria Beckham breastfeeding would do more to turn around the UK's terrible statistics on breastfeeding than any number of ill-conceived PCT schemes, argues The Jobbing Doctor

Yesterday I had a meeting with three people from the Primary Care Trust. They have been negotiating a day and time when I had an hour to spare, so they could talk to me about ‘The Baby Friendly Initiative'.

I ran out of stalling tactics, so the meeting took place and I really had no idea what it was about and what the content was.

The meeting was, in microcosm, an excellent exemplar of exactly what is wrong with the way the NHS is managed at the moment.

The chairman of the PCT, a member of the Professional Executive Committee who is a speech therapist and a former nursing sister on an orthopaedic ward wanted the Jobbing Doctor's opinion on an initiative they were planning to roll out. I am pleased that they are actually seeking the opinions of Jobbing Doctors, because it might help them.

What is the ‘Baby Friendly Initiative?', I asked - ‘I've never heard of it.' It turns out to be a programme to help encourage more women to breastfeed. This is a laudable aim, as breastfeeding is natural, healthy for mother and baby, and clinicians should encourage it. The rates in the UK are quite low, apparently, when compared to the Netherlands or Norway so the Government are spending our money appointing people to roll out this initiative.

‘How do you propose to do this then?' I asked? Quick as a flash out came a 20-page glossy book that is going to be sent to every GP promoting the importance of breast-feeding in new mothers. Other ideas suggested included holding a half-day meeting to teach doctors about the value of breastfeeding.

At this point, the normally mild-mannnered Jobbing Doctor decided to give some home truths.

‘Have any of you heard of the Cumberledge Report?' I asked. No they hadn't, so I gave them a quick Cook's tour on how maternity services have been fundamentally changed so that GPs and GP Maternity units were completely phased out (by fiat of some Government apparatchik), and it is quite common for me to see a patient at the time of booking of maternity care, and the next time I might see them would be at the post-natal examination. They didn't know that at all.

I told them that their suggestions for a training session were laughable and nobody would come. This is stuff that we teach to first year medical students and we don't need to be patronised by a series of ‘experts'.

They didn't know the rates for breast feeding in our patch, and were very vague about the reasons why people stop breast feeding. The attitude of young women to breast feeding in my patch are very much affected by the prevailing culture. Many find the very idea utterly distasteful, and that is sad. A couple of Mrs JD's colleagues decided not to breast feed because they were embarrassed about the possibility of having to breast feed in front of other people - and they are middle-class teachers!

I asked them if they had targets to achieve to ensure that breast-feeding would become more prevalent. They said that they had. You won't hit them, I told them, until you find out why they aren't breast feeding.

So, let's tot up the cost of this exercise. Meeting for 4 people. Hundreds of booklets. One full time co-ordinator for the project (formerly a hands-on orthopaedic nurse) and countless documents and reports. Many thousands of pointless pounds spent.

It could all change dramatically if Victoria Beckham breast fed her baby.

That'd work.

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