Maternity Voices Partnership
Making a difference
What is the Maternity Voices Partnership, or MVP? Emma Hawes Taylor discusses how MVP groups – run and organised entirely by people like you – local parents – are helping to shape the future of local maternity care
Throughout your pregnancy journey you meet many people who all play a part in your story: antenatal class teachers, pregnancy yogis, midwives, consultants. After birth it’s the same: feeding specialists, baby massage teachers, Health Visitors; there are so many new faces all playing a part in providing your care before, during and after birth.
But there’s a group of people that you may not even be aware of, let alone have met, who also work to make women’s journeys to motherhood as safe and positive as possible – members of your local Maternity Voices Partnership, or MVP.
THE ROLE OF MVPs
If you’ve never heard of an MVP, you’re not alone. They are mainly in England currently, with similar organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that are called MSLCs, Maternity Services Liaison Committees. Some areas have had one for years, others are in the process of setting one up, but all areas should have one, funded by the local Clinical Commissioning Group but run and organised entirely by people like you – local parents.
MVPs operate as a critical friend to maternity services. They are independent, working with rather than for senior staff in local Trusts, and chairing regular meetings attended by woman and families (and often babies too!), commissioners, senior midwives, consultants – all the people able to make decisions.
Those decisions are based on what the local community wants and needs. Members of the MVP spend time listening to the stories and opinions of women and families locally, asking what they thought was good about their maternity care, what was not so good, and what ideas they have for improvement.
This is then fed back to the hospital and used to shape local services in a way that reflects the unique needs of the community.
The most important part of the work of an MVP is listening to people who have used local maternity services, understanding what is working and should be built upon, and what needs improvement, which is where you come in.
Whether you’re a first-time parent or have a large brood, have loads of time to spare or only a few hours a month, you can get involved with your MVP and use your experience to help shape the future of local maternity care.
It’s an opportunity to make a real, positive difference, but there are huge benefits for you personally too.
If you’ve taken time out from your career to raise your family, it’s a great way to use your skills, learn new ones, and have something to put on your CV.
MVPs are chaired by women like you. While many MVP members will have businesses and jobs in areas involved with pregnancy and birth, equally many have come from totally different backgrounds.
I am chair of Reading MVP, but I was a journalist until I had my children, and I was working as a seamstress when I was asked to join my MVP by the then chair, who met me when she was gathering feedback at a toddler group I attended.
I began as a service user representative, a fancy term for a volunteer parent who has used local services. As I got involved, my confidence grew, and I realised how rewarding it is to make a real difference. When a new chair took over, she asked me to be her vice chair, and that naturally led to me moving into the chair role in September last year when she moved on to work for NHS England on the Maternity Transformation Programme. I am now also a volunteer member of the National Maternity Voices committee.
Five years ago I would never have imaged I would be chairing meetings in the hospital, attending other meetings with GPs, Health Visitors, and commissioners, and leading a team of wonderful parents from different backgrounds who share one thing – a passion for making local maternity care the best it can be.
Among the projects we have helped make happen are a local homebirth team offering dedicated care for women having a home birth; the creation of an induction suite; and the introduction of personalised caesarean births for women having a non-emergency caesarean. MVPs around the country are helping create similar projects for their area, shaped by local need.
Whether you have a fantastic experience having your baby, or if it’s more challenging or even a difficult birth, your voice can make a real difference to the care offered in your area. You don’t need special skills, just a desire to make your local maternity care the best it can be, and to work with healthcare professionals to achieve it.
If you’d like to find out more, contact your local MVP. You can find out their details at http://nationalmaternityvoices.org.uk/toolkitfor-mvps/find-an-mvp/. Whether you’d like to share your story, offer ideas for improvements, or join as a service user rep, your experience and voice really matter and can have a positive impact for your community.