Birth Budgets – a good idea or not?

Yesterday my friend sent me a link to this article proposing a ‘birth budget’ of £3,000 per birth so that women can pick and choose maternity care during their pregnancy. The BBC article suggests they might use this money to ensure continuity of care with the same midwife throughout their pregnancy and birth, or opt for a home birth over a hospital birth.

The ‘birth budget’ has been proposed as part of a review into maternity failings in recent years that have led to the unnecessary deaths of a number of babies. This plan isn’t due to be put in place until next year, so won’t affect me with this pregnancy, but it’s got me thinking about the idea in principal and whether I like it or not.

Personally, I don’t like it. This ring-fencing of NHS budgets feels like a move towards privatisation to me and personally, as someone who isn’t a medical professional, I don’t feel comfortable making these sorts of decisions about my (not to mention my unborn child’s) health.

The BBC article linked above highlighted the fact that around 9 out of 10 women have their baby in hospital, while only one in four say that this is where they’d choose to give birth. Well, I this this statement is somewhat misleading. I mean, I’d much rather have a peaceful home birth than a hospital birth.

Yep, I’d love a home birth. I’d also love to not be at higher risk of pre-eclampsia. I’d love to not have polycystic kidney disease. So if you asked me what I’d like when I think about the birth of my child, of course I’d say that a home birth would be preferable to a hospital one with medical intervention. But in actual fact, what I’d really love, is a birth with a positive outcome for the health of both myself and the baby.

And the best people to decide where that might take place? The medical professionals, in my opinion.

So rather than ring-fencing money for ‘birth budgets’, I think what this government should actually be doing is finding more ways to put money back into the frontline NHS, to stop bashing medical professionals and to make our NHS a more appealing place to work, as more midwives and better training are what’s really needed to make sure that as many births as possible end as well as possible.

birth, birth budgets, labour, having a baby

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9 Comments

  1. February 26, 2016 / 6:58 am

    Couldn’t agree with you more on this one! If they invested the money they propose to spend on this then surely they could significantly increase the standard of care across maternity wards, rather than leave it down to people who have no medical training to decide what is best for them. I wouldn’t want to be given that responsibility – it’s hard enough writing a birth plan! This reminds me of the changes they made to SEN funding in schools to give parents greater power over their child’s personal budget. At the end of the day it is still the schools guiding the parents as most of them aren’t informed enough to make the decisions themselves! I’d much rather any form of decision making and care stayed as part of the professional role to ensure the best levels of care and advice possible.

    • Jules
      February 26, 2016 / 7:17 am

      Oh, Becky, I said exactly the same yesterday to my SENDCo husband!

      Unfortunately I don’t think it’s ‘extra’ money, just moving the money around with a bit of spin. Exactly the same as in schools.

  2. Kelly
    February 26, 2016 / 7:47 am

    Well said!
    My initial reaction when I saw the proposal was it would be step towards privatisation which I am totally against.

  3. February 26, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    I really don’t know what to make of the plan. I’m also concerned that this is a form of privatisation, but equally I do think that giving mothers choice is a good thing. Personally I do think that, given the right information, mothers can and should choose their birth environment. Of course that should be guided by medical advice but I think pregnant women are perfectly able to make informed choices. Personally I’m going for a home birth even though my original midwife tried to dissuade me because I did my own research and feel comfortable that it is a safe option for me. I’d love to see more investment in home births and midwife led units, but of course for some mothers hospital will still be the best place.

    • Jules
      February 26, 2016 / 9:27 pm

      I agree women should have a say in their birth, I’m just not sure that that necessarily means having control of a budget and I’m equally unsure as to whether it will actually improve our midwifery services.

      My midwife asked me at my first appointment where I’d like to have my baby. I felt I had the opportunity to voice my opinion and that my views would be taken into account.

  4. February 27, 2016 / 11:56 pm

    With you all the way, I actually thought they had lost the plot when they announced birth budgets!

  5. February 28, 2016 / 12:48 am

    I haven’t really followed the news on it closely because it won’t affect Wales, but I don’t think I’d be in favour. The choice available to you would still depend on what your local health board has to offer, same as it does now, and I’d be wary of a push towards home births and midwifery units on the basis that they’re cheaper. It’s great if that’s what you want to go for, obviously, but nobody is very forthcoming about the statistics of problematic births when you’re pregnant – like the fact nearly 15% of deliveries are emergency sections… I don’t really see how being that much further away from the operating theatre is going to bring the infant mortality rate down. #KCACOLS

  6. February 28, 2016 / 5:17 am

    I’m not in the UK anymore, but oh my! I hope this doesn’t come to be. What a crazy idea! The government should be giving babies the best possible start in life not playing the lottery with them just to save money. #KCACOLS

  7. February 28, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    I think this is a bit of a stupid idea really. Surely they should be putting all that money into improving the NHS not to encourage people to go elsewhere. I completely agree with everything you have said and I hope this proposal isn’t approved.

    Thank you for linking up with #KCACOLS. Hope to see you again next Sunday x

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