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GP contract could include postnatal six-week check, says minister

A contractual obligation for GPs to carry out six-week postnatal checks is being considered for the 2020/21 contract, a health minister has stated.

Under current rules, post-natal care can be delivered by a number of providers including midwives, health visitors and GPs. 

The six-week check is not part of core GMS services – nor additional maternal and child health surveillance, which GPs can opt out of. 

The role of GPs in delivering postnatal checks has been under debate in recent years and the issue was included in the 2019/20 negotiations

In a response to a written MP question, Nadine Dorries, parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care said a decision on whether to include the six-week maternal postnatal check had not yet been taken. 

But she added that ‘NHS England and NHS Improvement are reviewing the available evidence to establish a clearer picture of current practice in this area’. 

Her response was to a question from Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, about what assessment had been made of the ‘potential merits’ of GPs conducting a routine postnatal physical and mental health check for all new mothers. 

In a separate parliamentary debate on the mental health provision in the NHS funding settlement, former Conservative health minister Steve Brine MP said currently opportunities were being missed to identify potential mental health issues. 

‘For example, we should be changing the GP contract so that when new mums go for the six-week check with their babies, they get a maternal mental health check at the same time. There are already opportunities, but we are missing them,’ he said.

He pointed to the National Childbirth Trust’s Hidden Half campaign, which aims to improve the six-week postnatal check. 

The charity want to see all women asked about general wellbeing, how the perineum is recovering and healing including checking stitches, a caesarean scar check, blood pressure check, lochia, changes to the body and weight loss advice if requested, feeding and breastfeeding, bladder and bowels, and contraception. 

The BMA said they could not comment on current negotiations.