The report, The Role of GPs in Maternity Care – What Does the Future Hold, will feed into a King’s Fund inquiry into the quality of general practice. The King's Fund argues that GPs should take a more active role in delivering maternity care by sharing responsibilities with midwives and obstetricians.
Because GPs hold information on patients’ medical history and their social context, they could be better placed to pick up problems early, the report says. Shared care between GPs, midwives and obstetricians could result in better coordination of support for women with complicated medical histories, it adds.
But the report also warns that pregnant women may be confused about who is in charge of their care and about whom they contact if they are unwell. It also says the current lack of training for GPs would have to be addressed.
GPs should look at pre-conception care and the care of pregnant women as part of their continuing professional development, the report says. They should also establish relationships with maternity services to agree protocols for referral and sharing information.
The GPC and the RCGP welcomed the report and said that many GPs were keen to provide maternity care.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘Many GPs have watched with growing concern as long-established and valued midwife colleagues have been withdrawn from practice teams and continuity of care for pregnant women has been lost.
‘GPs want to be more involved in maternity care because they see it as an important part of their job. Like the King’s Fund we think those who have specialist training should take the lead role in maternity care, but GPs do have a significant role to play.’
RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field said: ‘The best way forward is the establishment of effective maternity care teams in which GPs play a key role along with midwives, consultants and other healthcare professionals.
In some cases, these would be best run from GPs surgeries to enable easy transfer of information and better communication about the specific health needs of patients.’