Westminster Health Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Maternity services in England - safety, tackling inequalities, learning from the pandemic, and next steps following the Ockenden Review and the NHS LTP


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on next steps for maternity services in England.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the Ockenden Review and the NHS Long Term Plan - progress and outstanding issues in meeting recommendations and ambitions relating to maternity care
  • care during COVID-19 - adjustments in delivery, lessons learned, and possible directions for post-pandemic maternal care and recovery of services
  • health inequalities - looking at priorities for how they can be addressed, and improving support
  • key issues for innovation, safety and regulation

We are pleased to be able to include keynote contributions from: Baroness Cumberlege, Independent Chair, National Maternity Review, NHS England; Dr Nigel Acheson, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Care Quality Commission; and Gill Walton, Chief Executive, Royal College of Midwives.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the CQC; the DfE; the DHSC; the NAO; and the Health Inspectorate Wales; as well as parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee.

The agenda

  • Developments in maternity services, and policy priorities going forward
  • Delivering maternity services during the pandemic - the impact of heightened COVID-19 risk factors on care, patient choice and maternal mental health, and lessons learned and priorities for service recovery
  • Tackling health inequalities in maternity - community care, outreach, child health development, and improving access to medicines during pregnancy
  • Opportunities for improving maternity care following the pandemic and the impact of the Ockenden Review
  • Moving safety forward in maternity services - institutional culture, learning from mistakes, and improving inspection outcomes
  • Priorities for regulation of maternity services, and improving standards and safety

Areas for discussion

The Ockenden Review and the NHS Long Term Plan - progress and outstanding issues in meeting ambitions relating to maternity care:

  • the impact of the pandemic - and re-targeting of resources, as well as how resources, staff, and capacity for innovation can be boosted post-pandemic to ensure the goals of the Plan can be reached
  • funding - with NHS England reportedly having allocated an additional £95m for safer maternity care, including for staff training and recruitment

Care during COVID-19 - adjustments in delivery, lessons learned, and possible directions for post-pandemic maternal care and recovery of services, looking at:

  • the experience of maternity - the impact of social distancing, and other measures, factors and trends during the pandemic, including:
    • antenatal appointments - the impact of pregnant women attending without their partners, and how it may have affected support, wellbeing and rates of complications during labour
    • perinatal and post-natal mental health - the quality of remote support in lockdown and going forward, with:
      • the planned introduction of 26 maternal mental health hubs for psychological therapy and workforce training, in line with ambitions in the Long Term Plan
      • an increase in poor mental health for expectant and new mothers during the pandemic
    • domestic abuse - with NHS England research finding 15-30% of domestic violence begins during pregnancy, and with increased rates of domestic abuse seen during lockdown
  • what can be learned - opportunities for taking forward the experience of practical adjustments to inform possible improvements for:
    • keeping maternity units safe and supporting staff wellbeing, including the impact of additional funding for staff
    • allocation of resources, funding and staff - following warnings of workforce burnout by healthcare leaders, increased pressure on services, and recommendations in the Ockenden Report
    • support for staff wellbeing
  • patient choice - looking at possible impacts of recent limitations, and options for policy and future practice for safeguarding both safety and patient choice, in the context of:
    • rising cases of free-birthing - looking at demand for independent midwifery during the pandemic, as well as patient preferences going forward
    • insurance issues - options for resolving those complications affecting the independent midwifery sector
    • instilling trust - between patients and healthcare professionals, discussing best practice to enable both personal choices and safe birthing
    • giving birth alone - questions over the legality of forcing women who have tested positive for COVID-19 to give birth alone

Health inequalities - looking at priorities for improving support:

  • support outside hospital settings - community care provision during the pandemic, the digital divide, and ensuring access to remote support, as well as the impact of resource levels and capacity
  • outreach to ethnic minority communities - following concern over provision of advice about COVID-19 to members of communities with a prevalence of low English-language skills, and priorities for:
    • better tailoring communication
    • ensuring adequate levels of appropriately trained staff
  • ethnic minority inequality - following the MBRRACE-UK report and subsequent inquiry launch, understanding the reasons and priorities for improving ethnic minority maternity care
  • child health and development:
    • joining up local services for supporting children from disadvantaged families
    • improving data-sharing and providing targeted support
    • policy priorities for improving working conditions and staff retention in the early years sector

Safety and regulation:

  • institutional culture:
    • how can blame cultures be addressed to tackle concerns around hindering the ability of healthcare institutions to learn from mistakes, and priorities for improvement
    • the NHS People Plan and what it means for the maternity workforce
    • supporting maternity staff in danger of suffering burnout during the pandemic
  • regulation - policy priorities for improving the outcomes of inspections on safety in maternity units, in areas such as:
    • improving teamwork and the use of multi-disciplinary training
    • strengthening leadership
    • reducing variation in quality of care
    • ensuring investigations are consistently carried out to ensure learning from mistakes
    • addressing the disconnect between ward and board, with the RCM calling for directors of midwifery to take charge of maternity safety


  • digitised records - progress so far towards meeting the goals set out in the Long Term Plan and ensuring accessibility to women, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • pregnancy medicines:
    • priorities for widening the evidence base on the safety of drugs used by pregnant women, and the review of guidance by the The Safer Medicines in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Consortium
    • how can innovation and development around pregnancy drugs be supported and moved forward, following the lack of progress highlighted by Birmingham Health Partners
    • the impact of the recent wider policy drive to boost R&D

A scan of relevant developments

  • the Ockenden Review - examining cases of neglect at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, and making system-wide recommendations for safety in maternity units, such as:
    • improving collaboration between local trusts, and ensuring serious incident investigations have regional oversight
    • ensuring that pregnant women are truly listened to in relation to maternity services
    • providing multidisciplinary training for staff working together, with the DHSC announcing training for staff across 126 NHS trusts and in 44 Local Maternity Systems
    • risk assessment for all women at every antenatal contact
    • funding - Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, has told MPs on the Health Select Committee to request £400m in extra funding to achieve safer maternity units
  • the NHS Long Term Plan - with commitments on maternity care such as:
    • reducing maternity-related mortality - achieving 50% reductions in stillbirth, neonatal mortality and maternal mortality by 2025
    • personalised care - for most women to receive continuity of carers during pregnancy, birth and postnatally by early this year
    • reducing health inequalities - women from ethnic minority and deprived groups to receive continuity of care by 2024, as well as the offering of specialist support for ending smoking
  • Safety of maternity services in England inquiry by the Health and Social Care Select Committee - following investigations at a range of hospital trusts, it will also consider:
    • changes to clinical negligence and litigation processes
    • the effect of blame culture
  • support for pregnant women from ethnic minority and at-risk groups:
    • Racial injustice in maternity care: A human rights inquiry - supported by the charity Birthrights, the inquiry aims to evaluate the reasons for poorer maternity health outcomes for ethnic minority patients, currently calling for evidence
    • The DHSC Health and Wellbeing Fund - £7.6m for 19 three-year projects targeting mothers from ethnic minority communities or deprived localities to address health inequalities around early development and pre- and post-natal health
    • NHS England recommendations for minimising additional risks from coronavirus to women and babies from ethnic minority backgrounds:
      • lowering the threshold for admitting and reviewing cases of at-risk pregnant women
      • tailoring communications when reaching out to pregnant women from ethnic minority groups
      • ensuring risk factors for all women are recorded by all providers, such as taking into account vitamin D, especially where darker or covered skin may be associated with higher risks of deficiency
  • New focus on babies' and children's health as review launches - led by Early Years Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP, aims to inform the Government’s levelling up policy agenda by examining barriers impacting early development and seeking to reduce health inequalities during the first 1,000 days of life
  • reduced access to birth partners to antenatal appointments and the birth:
    • Pregnant Then Screwed’s But Not Maternity open letter highlighting the adverse impacts of giving birth alone, and further calls for the Health Secretary to ease restrictions and ensure consistency in the implementation of NHS England guidance
    • Supporting pregnant women using maternity services during the coronavirus pandemic: actions for NHS providers - updated guidance from NHS England, asking Trusts to urgently complete any further actions to allow for a partner at all stages
  • Statement on the Withdrawal of Professional Indemnity Insurance - IMUK raising concerns around self-employed midwives no longer being legally permitted to assist in childbirth following the withdrawal of their professional indemnity insurance (PII)
  • Birmingham maternity experts call for urgent action on pregnancy 'drug drought' - from Birmingham Health Partners, citing that one new drug specifically for pregnant women has been developed in the last 30 years, and that less than 30% of drugs used during pregnancy come with information on their safety implications when used by pregnant women
  • the Safer Medicines in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Consortium - aiming to consolidate guidance and develop a longer-term strategy for pregnancy medicine information
  • Maternal mental health during a pandemic: A rapid evidence review of COVID-19’s impact - a review by mental health organisations into the mental health challenges for pregnant women in the pandemic, offering eight recommendations, including increased research into the mental health effects of the pandemic and a review of the level of demand for services

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons - Health and Social Care Committee and officials from the Care Quality Commission; the Department for Education; the Department of Health and Social Care; the National Audit Office; and the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. Also due to attend are representatives from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry; Barts Health NHS Trust; Bevan Brittan; Birth Companions; Browne Jacobson; Capsticks Solicitors; Care Quality Commission; CDH UK The Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Charity; Dorset Parent Infant Partnership; DWF; East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust; Frome Birth Talk; General Medical Council; GM Health and Social Care Partnership; Health Education England; Hologic; Kingsley Napley; Kit Tarka Foundation; Leeds Teaching Trust NHS; Newcastle University; NHS Resolution; Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; Novum Law; Nursing and Midwifery Council; OneMedical Group; Perinatal Institute; Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust; Shropshire Council; South Central and West; The Royal College of Midwives; Ulster University; University of Cambridge and University of West London.

A press pass has been reserved by a representative from Nursing in Practice.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Health Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates