Women to be given control over births: Ministers want mothers to be able to choose where and how to have babies, with more deliveries at home. Celia Hall reports

A GOVERNMENT working party calls today for a revolution in maternity services, giving women the right to choose where and how they have their babies.

In the new system, women will be able to choose who looks after them - midwife, GP or hospital doctor - and it will mean more home births with midwives playing the lead role more frequently. The proposals are to be implemented over the next five years.

But hospital specialists fear the safety of women and their babies is being put at risk by the plans being promoted by Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, and Baroness Cumberlege, the Under-Secretary of State. The plans are intended to put women in charge of their pregnancies and childbirth.

The report, Changing Childbirth, heralds a battle between the Department of Health and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It rarely mentions obstetricians and recommends that women should carry their notes as 'proof that the woman is in charge'. In some cases, where there are no complications, a woman might never consult a doctor.

Lady Cumberlege, chairwoman of the working party, said yesterday that she was determined that the report would be implemented. A foreword from Mrs Bottomley says that 'pregnancy is not an illness' and that women should be at the centre of decisions about their care. She says the report is in line with the philosophy of the reformed National Health Service.

The Royal College of Midwives welcomed the report, but warned against 'warfare' among health professionals. 'The views of mothers must come first,' it said.

Mr Joseph Jordan, a Birmingham obstetrician and gynaecologist and spokesman for the college, said it had 'grave concerns' about the safety of women and babies if the report was fully implemented. The college said: 'Our unhappiness with the report stems from the fact that it appears to be suggesting major alterations in current practice without objective review of the available evidence.'

But Lady Cumberlege said each proposal had already been successfully implemented in a unit or community somewhere in the country.

In nine months of visits and inquiry, the working party had found much good practice, she said. 'But we also uncovered the mediocre and the poor; we found rigid, inflexible, unthinking and wasteful duplication of services, a total disregard for the emotional and psychological feelings of women and their partners.' She said that women telling them 'all I wanted was a familiar face' was a theme that had haunted the working party.

The report is in line with the findings of the House of Commons Select Committee on Health report in March 1992 which criticised the 'over-medicalisation' of childbirth. It said that mothers' experience of pregnancy and birth had been degraded by arguments about safety which were based more on prejudice than evidence.

Key proposals are that the woman should have, in almost all cases, the same professional providing care throughout her pregnancy and that she should be given full information about all the choices available to her.

The Royal College is submitting a detailed report to the Department of Health. Yesterday, it listed points from the report which it said were 'inadequately justified'. The obstetricians say that midwives are not trained to screen for abnormal heart murmurs or chest conditions.

They said that a survey had shown that three-quarters of women initially referred for delivery in 'low-risk' midwives' units had needed some form of medical intervention.

Changing Childbirth; HMSO; pounds 18.50.

Home truths from hospital, page 21

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
News
Nick Clegg playing 'Palin or prom queen'
newsNick Clegg on TV's The Last Leg
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee