Reilly yet to appoint oversight group for maternity strategy

Working group recommended in report into death of Savita Halappanavar

 James Reilly:  disclosed that he has “not as yet” established the group, though work on the strategy is “ongoing” within his department and the Health Service Executive. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

James Reilly: disclosed that he has “not as yet” established the group, though work on the strategy is “ongoing” within his department and the Health Service Executive. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 01:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has yet to appoint a working group to oversee a new national maternity strategy, nine months after this was recommended in a report into the death of Savita Halappanavar.

In answer to a Dáil question, Dr Reilly disclosed that he has “not as yet” established the group, though work on the strategy is “ongoing” within his department and the Health Service Executive.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Minister and Taoiseach Enda Kenny of giving a misleading impression that work on the strategy was under way.

Nine months after both men promised to do everything possible to improve maternity services, nothing had happened, he claimed.

Inconsistencies

The maternity strategy is being developed in response to safety concerns highlighted by the death of Ms Halappanavar in 2012 as well as other serious obstetric incidents. Last year’s report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) highlighted inconsistencies in the provision of maternity services nationally and called for the development of a national strategy.

It said this strategy needed to reflect best available evidence and to ensure that all pregnant women had appropriate and informed choices, as well as access to the right level of care and support.

The review is widely expected to result in a politically controversial recommendation to shut smaller maternity units outside the main urban centres about which there may be safety concerns.

Dr Reilly said a desk-based review of national and international literature on best practice in the organisation and delivery of maternity services was under way, in addition to a review of services currently provided.

“This review will give us the opportunity to take stock of the services that are provided to women and their babies in our 19 maternity hospitals, and identify how we can further improve the quality and safety of the care we provide.”

There was controversy last month when the West/North-West Hospitals Group shelved its regional review of maternity services in seven local units following a row over a consultancy report, later withdrawn, compiled by a company part-owned by the then chairman of the group. This regional review has since been subsumed into the national review of maternity services.

Concern for reputation

Mr Kenny told the Dáil last month the review was needed to ensure that Ireland keeps its reputation as “one of the safest places in the world in which to give birth”.

Mr Martin asked how the West/North-West strategy could be subsumed into a national strategy that was not yet under way.

Dr Reilly said the strategy has been discussed at meetings between his department and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

He had also met the institute, he added.

“I can also confirm that a consultation process will be undertaken at an appropriate time, with a view to finalising the strategy by the end of this year.”