The government’s proposals for an increasingly pro market NHS could result in the “disintegration” of the maternity care pathway, the Royal College of Midwives has warned.

Responding to the Liberating the NHS white paper consultation, the college said it welcomed many parts of the reforms but was concerned by the “advocacy of greater competition” in the government’s plans.

It said: “We particularly welcome the proposal to develop maternity networks; we recommend that managed maternity networks should have responsibility for commissioning maternity services.”

However – in its official submission to the Department of Health’s white paper consultation – the RCM said the tension between reforms which promote collaboration and increasing competition between providers could destabilise the health service.

Under the white paper reforms, commissioners will purchase services from “any willing provider” and Monitor will become an economic regulator of increasingly independent foundation trusts.

RCM Sean O’Sullivan head of policy said: “We think that for maternity services to offer higher quality services, that is reliant on greater cooperation between different maternity services. Any willing provider and an economic regulator role for monitor look to be contradictory to that.”

The college also said it was “alarmed” by suggestions that employers may seek to undermine the Agenda for Change pay system.

It said: “Undermining the terms and conditions of NHS staff damages staff morale, and jeopardises the quality of patient care, since it will make it harder for the NHS to recruit and retain the best available staff.”

The RCM also said the economic climate and constrained public finances threatened to negate positive reforms. It said: “We are above all concerned that maternity services are going to move in exactly the opposite direction to the vision expressed in the white paper.”