GPs should not be put in charge of commissioning maternity services, according to midwifery experts.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said doctors are not the experts in this area and it would create doubts over the government’s commitment to providing a high standard of maternity care.
Under the Department of Health’s white paper, which has been through a consultation period, the new NHS Commissioning Board will take over the distribution of maternity services. But the government is continuing to consider whether GPs should be handed that power, which is currently set to come into force in 2012.
Leading doctors have defended the proposals, pointing out that they will make provisions for expert advisers to ease the transition for GPs to commission the services.
Nursing Times reported that senior Department of Health sources had told it the government intends maternity to be part of local GP commissioning. The change would represent a significant U-turn on current plans.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) general secretary, Professor Cathy Warwick, said: “If this happens it would make us fundamentally very concerned about other commitments the government has made about maternity services, like the commitment to choice and to equality of standards.”
Professor Warwick said GPs were not usually experts in maternity care.
She said: “Commissioning on that basis would be very bad. GPs absolutely need to be involved in maternity care but that doesn’t mean they need to be commissioning, and they are not the people with the greatest knowledge.
“They don’t all maintain competence and knowledge (about maternity) and they won’t all have experts coming in to advise them.”
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