Thousands of extra staff will have to be brought in to meet the standards set out in Maternity matters: choice, access and continuity of care in a safe service, published by the DoH on Tuesday, it said.
The paper says women must be given the choice of a home birth or delivery in a midwife- or consultant-led unit by the end of 2009. Mothers should also be supported by a named midwife before and after birth, it says.
Women will be able to refer themselves to their local midwifery service, choose whether to receive antenatal care from obstetricians as well as midwives and decide what hospital they will go to, if needed.
This may require some trusts to 'increase their workforce capacity', the DoH paper states.
A spokesman for the Royal College of Midwives said 1,000 more midwives would be needed by the end of 2009 with a further 2,000 by 2012, to deliver this choice to patients. General secretary Dame Karlene Davis said: 'NHS decision-makers in every local area must deliver enough midwives and enough investment in maternity services - and they must make a start on that now.'