National Maternity Services Plan

Introduction

Introduction to the National Maternity Services Plan 2010

Page last updated: 2011

Endorsement by Health Ministers
Acronyms and abbreviations
The National Maternity Services Plan
Background to the Plan
Development of the Plan
Context for the Plan within the changing healthcare landscape
Five year vision

Endorsement by Health Ministers

National Maternity Services Plan

The Australian National Maternity Services Plan sets out a five year vision for maternity care in Australia.

Five Year Vision

Maternity care will be woman centred, reflecting the needs of each woman within a safe and sustainable quality system. All Australian women will have access to high-quality, evidence-based, culturally competent maternity care in a range of settings close to where they live. Provision of such maternity care will contribute to closing the gap between the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. Appropriately trained and qualified maternity health professionals will be available to provide continuous maternity care to all women.

The Australian National Maternity Services Plan is a product of Australian governments working together to develop a consistent, strategic framework to guide the realisation of this vision.

In putting together the Plan, Australian governments have been mindful of maintaining Australia’s high standard of safety and quality in maternity care, while seeking to improve access to services and choice in models of care. Key considerations also include increasing and supporting the maternity workforce, strengthening infrastructure, as well as building the evidence-base on what works well in Australia.

Particular attention is given in the Plan to meeting the needs of women and their families living in rural and remote areas; the need to improve birth outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and the special requirements of women who are vulnerable due to medical or other risk factors.

Significant consultation with key medical professionals and midwifery stakeholder groups occurred during the Plan’s development and the time, effort and advice of all involved is acknowledged and appreciated.

Through the Plan, Australian governments have committed to a range of activities. Some of these activities continue or build on existing programs, while some are aimed at providing a better basis for future service delivery such as the development and adoption of planning tools, and agreement to report against national maternity indicators.

The Australian National Maternity Services Plan was endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference (AHMC) on 12 November 2010. Australian governments will continue to report to AHMC on progress against the Plan and benefits delivered to Australian women and their families over the coming five years.

Hon Dr Kim Hames MLA
Chair
Australian Health Ministers’ Conference

Acronyms and abbreviations

ACSQHC - Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
AHMAC - Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council
AHMC - Australian Health Ministers’ Conference
CALD - culturally and linguistically diverse
COAG - Council of Australian Governments
GP - general practitioner
HPPPC - Health Policy Priorities Principal Committee
HWA - Health Workforce Australia
MBS - Medicare Benefits Schedule
MSIJC - Maternity Services Inter-Jurisdictional Committee
MSOAP - Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program
NPA - National Performance Authority
OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
PBS - Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
the Plan - National Maternity Services Plan Top of page
UK - United Kingdom

The National Maternity Services Plan

Maternity care in Australia is among the safest in the world, with low maternal and perinatal mortality rates compared with other nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
However, some sectors of the population, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rural and remote communities, experience considerable health inequalities and social disadvantage, which are compounded by limited provision of quality maternity care and can lead to less favourable outcomes for these mothers and babies. Many Australian women also experience restricted birthing choices, despite the wide range of maternity care models practised in Australia.
The National Maternity Services Plan (the Plan) recognises the importance of maternity services within the health system and provides a strategic national framework to guide policy and program development across Australia over the next five years.
Against a background of general review and reform of national health care services, all jurisdictions have shown their commitment to providing high-quality, woman-focused maternity care within available resources. The Plan builds on this work to reflect a joint understanding and commitment on ways to develop and improve maternity services in Australia, within the context of wide-ranging changes in the healthcare landscape.
The Plan focuses on primary maternity services during the antenatal, intrapartum and six-week postnatal periods for women and babies. While recognising the importance of linkages to a range of specialist services, it does not specifically address these specialist services.

Background to the Plan

A range of inquiries and reviews by the Australian Government have informed maternity services reform and initiatives, including:
  • Options for Effective Care in Childbirth1
  • Review of Services Offered by Midwives2
  • Rocking the Cradle: A Report into Childbirth Procedures3
  • Improving Maternity Services in Australia:
  • The Report of the Maternity Services Review4
These reviews involved extensive consultation with stakeholders. The most recent review, the National Maternity Services Review, canvassed a wide range of issues relevant to maternity services, including antenatal services, birthing options, postnatal services up to six weeks after birth, and peer and social support for women in the perinatal period. The consultation process consisted of stakeholder submissions and roundtable forums.

The Maternity Services Review concluded in February 2009 with the release of Improving Maternity Services in Australia: The Report of the Maternity Services Review.4 This report made 18 recommendations in the key areas of:
  • safety and quality
  • access to a range of models of care
  • inequality of outcomes and access
  • information and support for women and their families
  • the maternity workforce
  • financing arrangements
The review identified improved choices and information about maternity care for pregnant women as a priority, while maintaining the existing high standards of safety and quality. Support for a collaborative maternity workforce was also highlighted, with a particular emphasis on maximising the capacity of appropriately skilled midwives in the provision of maternity care. Access issues for rural and remote women, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, were also identified as priority areas for improvement in Australian maternity services. Top of page

Development of the Plan

In September 2009, the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference (AHMC) agreed to progress the Plan as a priority. The Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) delegated responsibility for the Plan’s development to their Health Policy Priorities Principal Committee (HPPPC) for strategic direction.

The HPPPC commissioned Campbell Research and Consulting Pty Ltd to develop the Plan. Their brief included an engagement strategy with all jurisdictions, as well as consultations with key stakeholders, which took place between January and April 2010.

The Plan has three parts:
  1. Maternity care in Australia: including details of the current services and maternity outcomes in Australia.
  2. The National Maternity Services Plan: including the principles underpinning the Plan and detailed actions against the priorities of the Plan.
  3. Implementation of the Plan: including responsibilities, implementation strategies and the first year implementation plan.
Details of recent AHMAC projects aimed at improving maternity care in Australia are provided in Appendix A. Details of other Australian Government and state and territory initiatives, including the priorities of the Plan they address, are provided in Appendixes B and C.

Context for the Plan within the changing healthcare landscape

The Maternity Services Plan has been developed within the context of broader changes to Australia’s health and hospital systems. On 13 February 2011 all Australian Governments signed a Heads of Agreement on National Health Reform and committed to signing a full National Health Reform Agreement by 1 July 2011. Building on elements of the April 2010 National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement, the Heads of Agreement sets out the shared intention of the Commonwealth, state and territory Governments to work in partnership to improve health outcomes for all Australians and to ensure the future sustainability of the Australian health care system.

Under the Heads of Agreement state and territory governments are system managers for public hospital services and take the lead role in public health, while the Commonwealth has a lead role in delivering primary health care reform and will take full funding, policy, management and delivery responsibility for a national aged care system.

The Commonwealth and state and territory governments will work together on system-wide policy and state-wide planning for GP and primary health care services, because it impacts on the efficient delivery of hospital services and other state funded services, and because of the need for effective integration across Commonwealth and state funded health care services.

The reforms will change the way Australian hospitals and health care services are run. They will deliver better care to Australians by streamlining health care across the sectors of the health system, and by improving the quality of patient care through high performance standards.

Five year vision

Maternity care will be woman-centred, reflecting the needs of each woman within a safe and sustainable quality system. All Australian women will have access to high-quality, evidence-based, culturally competent maternity care in a range of settings close to where they live. Provision of such maternity care will contribute to closing the gap between the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. Appropriately trained and qualified maternity health professionals will be available to provide continuous maternity care to all women. Top of page