Mumsnet to use parent power to run the nation's maternity wards
Department of Health announces innovative new scheme
The Department of Health today announced the launch of a pilot scheme to trial the outsourcing of maternity wards to Mumsnet, the UK's largest network for parents.
This groundbreaking scheme - the first of its kind - sees the NHS moving to harness the reach and expertise of a prominent fourth-sector organisation to provide a crowd-sourced solution to the provision of services. With 5 million monthly unique users, Mumsnet is widely regarded as a key voice of UK parents, and the intention is to use this parent power to develop maternity services of the future. If successful, the scheme - which is due to run initially across the University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust for a 12-month trial period - will receive a staggered roll-out across NHS trusts around the country over the second half of 2015 and 2016.
NHS England spokesperson Angela Hernandez said:
"The NHS as an organisation is committed to excellence, and is constantly on the look-out for ways to upgrade patient experience, as well as to save money. Newborns are the patients of the future, and as such we are keen to ensure that their first encounter with the NHS is as comfortable and reassuring as possible. After lengthy consultation with key stakeholders, we have concluded that mothers themselves - from their position at the coal face - are uniquely placed to advise on best practice around childbirth and the most appropriate revenue opportunities available. Mumsnet is a natural partner for the NHS, and we believe this scheme could offer a blueprint for crowdsourced solutions to NHS services going forward."
Mumsnet was chosen to pilot the scheme after an extensive 5-step tender process. "The Mumsnet bid stood out because of their innovative proposal to marry a patient-led birth experience with sustainable income generation via the provision of paid-for service upgrades and exploitation of other commercial opportunities".
One area in which the scheme will have immediate impact is that of pain relief. On the advice of Mumsnetters, the UCLH Foundation Trust will now offer an expanded range of options, from traditional analgesics such as gas and air, epidural and pethidine, via the more holistic whale music, Rescue Remedy and massage through to the innovative recommendation of a "gin bar". Pregnant women will also be offered a no-quibble, no-returns, caesarian option, with online check-in up to 15 minutes in advance of the operation.
Under the new scheme, the focus of NHS delivery suites (to be renamed 'baby reception areas') will switch from doctors to patients. Mandatory equipment and services will include 24-hour lactation consultants on hand to assist in the event of feeding difficulties, candlelit birthpools (designed to facilitate relaxation as well as to offer more flattering lighting for filming purposes), and on-ward beauty therapists to advise new mothers on style choices.
The basic offer will also include free WiFi, Babyliss Big Hair stylers and pelvic floor toning sessions as standard. For a modest additional fee, customers can upgrade to the Deluxe birthing option, offering queen beds with luxury goosedown mattress toppers, and on-demand TV (sponsored by Netflix).
• Delivery suites to be renamed 'baby reception areas'
• Free WiFi, Babyliss Big Hair stylers and pelvic floor toning sessions as standard
• Deluxe option includes queen beds with luxury goosedown mattress toppers, and on-demand TV
• Superdeluxe option: private room with unlimited Elemis treatments, an a la carte Yotam Ottolenghi-inspired menu and a Lotus spread-based 24/7 room service snack menu
There's also a Superdeluxe offer including a private room with unlimited Elemis treatments, an a la carte Yotam Ottolenghi-inspired menu and a Lotus spread-based 24/7 room service snack menu. The projected nightly rate of £395 compares favourably with top London hotel prices.
Other innovative measures intended to generate extra revenue for the unit include baby name consultants, a 'My Birth Live in pictures and video' offer and Mumsnet Academy self-improvement classes for new parents, including How To Look Good on 3 Hours' Sleep and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dads.
The trial is to be filmed for and screened by the Mumsnet Maternity unit's media partners, reality TV show, One Born Every Minute.
Mumsnet CEO, Justine Roberts, said:
"Initially our users were sceptical about NHS privatisation but on reflection we've concluded that if death can be handled efficiently and sensitively by private companies, then why not birth? Clearly if we at Mumsnet can begin our relationship with women at the very beginning of their journey into motherhood, we can harness valuable insights that will help us ensure their future interaction with the right brands at the right time for them. We're thrilled with the sponsors we've so far attracted - important family brands such as Mothercare, Ikea, Boden and Gordon's - and via our new partnership with Wonga we're confident that a truly inspiring, modern and personalised birth experience will be open to all.
The bottom line is that all women are different and we believe in empowering mothers' choices. For some, the most important part of the experience will be access to a brazilian blow-dry in order to be salon-ready for the baby photos, and our mission is to facilitate that choice."
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, this morning gave his full endorsement to the scheme. "Mumsnet know mothers best," he said, "and by getting them to do commercial legwork for us, we can jointly provide great maternity services and save the NHS a packet in the process."
Last updated: 11 months ago