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Call to ‘urgently’ redefine GP role in maternity services

By Nigel Praities

The dramatic decline in GP involvement in maternity care is having an adverse effect on the care of pregnant women and their families, says a report from the King's Fund.

The report, published today, details a list of changes that have reduced the role of GPs to merely signposting women to midwife- or consultant-led care in some areas, risking the fragmentation of care.

It says there is an urgent need to define the role of the GP in ante- and postnatal care after Government policies appeared to ignore or were ‘ambivalent about their role'.

The report has received a warm welcome from GP leaders, who have encouraged a radically different approach, with GPs once again taking a central role in the care of pregnant women.

The King's Fund report recommends GPs are given responsibility for counselling and health checks in early pregnancy, triage for emergencies during pregnancy and aspects of post-natal care.

It recommends additional training for GPs and that the QOF or the GMS contract is revised to include incentives for this work.

'The current status of GPs in maternity care is in urgent need of clarification. The GP should be part of an effective team in which the roles, responsibilities and lines of communication are clear,' says the report.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said that GPs had watched ‘with growing concern' as midwife colleagues were withdrawn from practice teams, and continuity of care for pregnant women suffered.

‘GPs want to be more involved in maternity care because they see it as an important part of their job,' he said.

‘Like the King's Fund we think those who have specialist training should take the lead role in maternity care, but GPs do have a significant role to play.'

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field said there needed to be ‘significant changes' to the current system of maternity care,

‘The best way forward is the establishment of effective maternity care teams in which GPs play a key role along with midwives, consultants and other healthcare professionals,' he said.

Professor Field also said the RCGP was working on a joint way forward with the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and that their ‘consensus statement' will be published shortly.

Antenatal health check King's Fund report on GP's role in maternity services Read the full report

Click here for the full report on maternity services from the King's Fund