The Review of Maternity Services commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing will surely be released soon.

The aim of the Review was to:

canvass a wide range of issues relevant to maternity services, including antenatal services, birthing options, postnatal services up to six weeks after birth, and peer and social support for women in the perinatal period; ensure that all interested parties have an opportunity to participate; and inform the development of a National Maternity Services Plan.

Many people from around the country participated in the canvassing process. This included written submissions from individuals and organisations, as well as ‘roundtable’ discussions.

The website says that the Department has received a large number of submissions and is working to publish them progressively on the public website. The first batch of 473 submissions has been already published. It is understood that more than 900 submissions were received. This is an extraordinary number and goes to show how much interest there is in the issue. This should be encouraging for all who are interested in ensuring that women and babies have access to and receive the very best maternity service.

As the release date approaches, it seems likely that groups and individuals will start to get anxious and the posturing will start (indeed it already has).

From sitting collaboratively around roundtables discussing issues respectfully and using evidence to inform the debate, I fear that the release of the Report (regardless of the recommendations) could mean that we retreat to our former positions where the turf wars will begin again.

We must all restrain from this response.

It is time to take a big deep breath and develop new and more constructive ways of working together. We must keep women and babies at the centre of the discussion, not our various professional perspectives.

We (particularly doctors and midwives) must take this opportunity to rethink maternity services in this country — rethink how we can work together — rethink what we can do together to ensure the maternity services are safe, and feel safe. A knee-jerk separatist turf war is unhelpful for women, midwives, obstetricians and the health system.

Developing safe, high quality and sustainable maternity services means working together.

It does not seem such an extraordinary thing to ask for, but it does mean that we (midwives, obstetricians and GPs) need to find a middle ground. We will all need to make concessions and compromises as we move forward, and women need to be involved in the decision-making at every level. Some decisions will be hard and other decisions will be easy and be embraced with enthusiasm.

Here is the challenge — surely we can do it?

Peter Fray

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