Hospital trusts are significantly increasing their maternity spending for the first time in several years, according to research by the Royal College of Midwives.

Trusts and foundation trusts are planning to spend an average of 7 per cent more than last year.

It follows complaints that maternity funding has not increased despite government commitments. Department of Health budgeting data for 2007-08, the period when extra money was promised, showed maternity spend had stagnated.

HSJ revealed in January (news, 22 January, page 6) that more than a third of primary care trusts could not say how they had earmarked additional funds for maternity.

RCM director of employment relations and development Jon Skewes said: “We have been campaigning for a number of years for increased investment and have been disappointed that previously all our research showed it was not getting to the front line.

“That now actually seems to be happening. Managers are recognising the 16 per cent increase in the birth rate, and that maternity can be a shop window for the NHS.”

However the RCM research, based on information supplied by 97 trusts and foundations, also shows large differences in the spending increases between regions. It varies from 2 per cent in the North East and West Midlands to 15 per cent in Yorkshire & Humber.

Mr Skewes said in some cases lower spending growth matched areas where there were already more staff, but in some it did not.

The RCM also fears improvements will stop as public spending is cut, as expected, in coming years.

Mr Skewes said: “Our fear is we will see one year of some increase but that will be cut off as the effect of public spending restrictions hit the health service. They need to continue to grow even at a time of financial stringency.”

 

Region                                  Trust average increase in maternity spending %
East Midlands 14
East of England5
London 5
North East  2
North West 3
South Central   8
South East Coast    10
South West   5
West Midlands2
Yorkshire & Humber   15