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This contractual postnatal checks idea is giving me sleepless nights



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I have good news, bad news and worse news.

The good news is that I’ve just discovered something wonderful about a recurring chore in general practice that I’ve only endured over the years because I assumed I had to: I don’t have to.

Apparently, the pointless ritual known as the ‘six-week postnatal check’ which has mums mumbling, as they leave, ‘That was a waste of time’ – largely because it was – is not mandatory. I’ve been doing them for as long as I can remember, and I’m guessing you have, too, as I’ve always assumed they were a specified part of the maternity Additional Service contract.

But they’re not. Trouble is, I’ve only realised this because someone has now decided that they should be. And that’s the bad news. For reasons which utterly escape me, incorporating the six-week check into our contract is part of the 2019/20 contract negotiations. The even worse news is that the National Childbirth Trust seems to be the frontrunner in coming up with the check’s format. Yup, that’s right. The NCT.

We all know that postnatal checks are a worthless, unscientific tradition

I’ve got nothing against them personally, even if an NCT antenatal class 28 years ago did make me miss the England v Germany World Cup semi-final. But I have to say that, if I was looking for an evidence-based approach to support post-natal checks, the NCT wouldn’t be my first port of call.

Then again, anywhere I’d look would prove pointless, because this is an evidence-free zone. We all know that postnatal checks are a worthless, unscientific tradition, so let’s not regress to the dark ages. Midwives and health visitors can do the routine, proactive touchy-feely bits.

New mums are welcome to see me whenever about whatever. I’ll even try to make opportunistic enquiries in the post-natal period, if you like, though I’ll probably steer clear of one of the NCT’s suggested questions – ‘Does your perineum feel OK?’ – especially if she’s just come in with a sore throat.

But please: no arbitrary six-week check which wastes patient time and a precious appointment. On the other hand, if mandatory six-week checks are the forceps that lever out a shiny, healthy, GP-friendly new contract and there are no other nasty perinatal surprises, then feel free to completely disregard the above, Mr Vautrey. Like I said, I’m doing them already.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex

Please note: this headline was changed at 9:45am on 6 November 2018 to reflect that Copperfield is referring to postnatal checks – not ‘baby checks’, as the original headline implied