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Universal six-week postnatal check for new mothers confirmed in GP contract



GP practices will be required to provide a postnatal check to all new mothers between six and eight weeks after they have given birth, under new contract changes.

A total of £12 million of additional funding will be provided through the global sum to ensure all mothers receive the check – which is in addition to the GP appointment all babies receive at six to eight weeks.

NICE guidance recommeds a check for new mothers at this point to ‘ensure that the woman’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing is reviewed’.

In the updated 2020/21 contract for GPs, revealed last week, NHS England and the BMA said the existing GP contract only funds checks for a newborn infant physical examination at six weeks, but there is no specific contractual requirement for practices to review the mother’s health.

It added: ‘Recent research suggests that many practices already offer a postnatal check for new mothers, but not all. We want to make this a consistent offer for all mothers.’

The agreed contract changes mean from 2020/21:

  • All practices will be required to deliver a maternal check at six to eight weeks after birth (live and stillbirth), as an additional appointment to that for the six- to eight-week baby check 
  • The ‘maternity medical services’ additional service will become an essential service
  • The ‘child health surveillance’ additional service will also become an essential service
  • The contract’s current definition of the ‘postnatal period’ will be revised from two to eight weeks, to bring it in line with NICE guidance on best practice, along with the needs of women following birth

In line with NICE guidance, the maternal check should focus on:

  • A review of the mother’s mental health and general wellbeing, using open questioning
  • The return to physical health following childbirth, and early identification of pelvic health issues
  • Family planning and contraception options
  • Any conditions that existed before or arise during pregnancy that require on-going management, such as gestational diabetes

Last year the RCGP called for a six-week check for new mothers to come into funding allocations, to ensure GPs have time to check both the baby and mother’s health. 

Kent GP Dr Stephanie deGiorgio, who has campaigned for the change, told Pulse: ‘I am delighted that the importance of maternal postnatal care is finally being understood by the Government and NHS England.

‘Funding maternal checks will give practices the freedom to do them in the way that works best for their patient cohort, and we will be providing a guidance template to ensure that it is a proper “top to toe” check of both the mental and physical health of the woman.

‘It will also be the start of a conversation, so that the woman knows she can access help for any problems that may develop later.’

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