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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect