Women and their babies are to receive safer and more personalised care from the NHS, after the announcement of £127m in additional funding for maternity services across England.
The majority of the funding will be directed towards boosting the workforce and improving the culture in maternity units, the NHS said.
Announced at the latest NHS England board meeting, more than £50m will be provided to trusts over the next two years to boost staffing numbers in maternity and neonatal services.
Around £34m will be invested in local maternity systems, in culture and leadership development programmes.
Estates and facilities teams are set to benefit too, with £45m of capital funding to be made available to hospitals over the next three years to increase the number of neonatal cots across England.
It will ensure babies receive the best quality care, in the most appropriate clinical setting.
This latest funding award builds upon a previous £95m package of support announced last year for maternity services in England. That funding also focused on bolstering the workforce, supporting 1,300 new roles (1,200 midwives and 100 obstetricians) alongside more training, development and leadership programmes.
The NHS also outlined how £8m of the funding was to be used to support the retention of all midwives, support students and those with midwives with less experience.
Under the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS is seeking to be the safest place in the world to give birth – as well as accelerating efforts to reduce stillbirth by half, maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and serious brain injury by 2025.
It will also see 42 Local Maternity Systems introduced across the country, bringing together local health organisations, clinicians and families to make sure maternity services meet the needs of their communities, and can continue to deliver improved outcomes.
Professor Jaqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE, NHS England’s Chief Midwifery Officer, said: “Midwives have a rewarding, important and privileged role, and this new funding will be vital in providing them with a continuous improvement process that that supports them personally and professionally, to enhance the quality of care for women and babies.
“We want the NHS to be the safest place in the world to give birth and this funding will help us to do this.”
Responding to the funding, NHS Providers welcomed the additional funding being introduced for maternity services but called for the Government and health leaders to take advantage of the momentum they were building and continue investing in maternity care.
Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “Trust leaders will, of course, welcome this new funding to increase and maintain staffing numbers in maternity and neonatal services, improve organisational culture, as well as increase the number of neonatal beds across England.
"These are important priorities for trust leaders, particularly as we await the findings of the final Ockenden report.
"As trusts seek to make ongoing improvements to maternity services, robust and continued emphasis on addressing workforce shortages and cultural issues remains fundamental to improve the quality of care patients receive, and to reduce patient harm as a result.
"However, while this funding is welcome and will help to make care safer and more patient-centred, the scale of the risks should not be understated, and more investment will be needed.
“Maternity services across England are facing a broad number of challenges, including widespread inequalities and disparities, a rise in the complexity of cases, as well as significant staffing shortages contributing to staff burnout.
"It is therefore essential that the Government and national bodies keep this positive momentum going and do more to invest in improving maternity care."