Maternity Advice and Action Groups – A joy and inspiration #MSLCs

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10 MSLCs in South London

Across South London there are 10 MSLCs (see below). Who knew that? No one, because no one made it their business to count or encourage collaboration, until now.

Multi-disciplinary maternity groups provide a great way for women’s views and priorities for change to be incorporated into strategic plans and the local maternity specifications. They involve current and recent services, more experienced ‘parent leaders’, maternity professionals ad commissioners – that’s an MSLC, or maternity services liaison committee, to use the full title.

In my role as patient and public involvement (PPI) lead for the maternity research group in South London[1], I have been gathering together leaders from these maternity advice and action groups (MSLCs) across South London. It’s been a joy and an inspiration. There is such a huge strategic potential out there!

In South London the established MLSCs are:

  • Epsom and St Helier
  • Kingston
  • St George’s
  • Croydon
  • King’s
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’s
  • Lewisham
  • Bromley
  • Bexley and
  • Greenwich.

These maternity forums provide advice to commissioners and providers of maternity services. They sometimes have different (more friendly, accessible) public-facing names, but essentially they are maternity services liaison committees (MSLCs), first set up following the Maternity Care in Action reports.

Some are doing really strategic work, well supported by their local clinical commissioning group (CCG), which has a responsibility for safety and quality assurance of services, and for ensuring service users are engaged and involved.  NHS England’s Transforming participation in health and care, says Commissioners should:

‘Listen and act upon patient and carer feedback at all stages of the commissioning cycle – from needs assessment to contract management.’

The National Maternity Review, recognised that:

‘Maternity Service Liaison Committees (MSLCs) provide a means of ensuring the needs of women and professionals are listened to and we saw how effective they could be when properly supported and led.’

Introducing the report, Julia Cumberlege  said:

‘I urge you to play your part in creating the maternity services you want for your family and your community. Voice your opinions, just as you have during this review, and challenge those providing the services to meet your expectations.’

In contrast, despite the best efforts of numerous MSLC leaders (chairs), there are CCGs in South London, and other areas, who give no financial or management and administrative support. Or they do not understand or fully respect the independence of the MSLC, and the role of the MSLC chair.

Perhaps this is not surprising, when the guidance on engaging with maternity service users and working collaboratively, using community engagement and co-design techniques, needs to be updated.

A new online resource

Fortunately, NHS England is working on updated online  guidance for MSLCs, with input from myself, Gillian Fletcher, and lots of service users who are active on local forums. The guidance is due for publication in the summer. Watch this space.

South London MSLC network

I’ve been really fortunate to be able to work with Laura James in South London. In other health circles, she would be called a ‘patient leader’. Starting, years ago now ,from her own experience, she has become highly influential in her local area, becoming chair of the Bromley MSLC.  Together we’ve set up a South London MSLCs Facebook group for all those involved with MSLCs across our patch.

There is a role for leaders. Laura’s been developing her knowledge andhoning her skills. She works directly with pregnant women and new parents both walking the patch in NHS clinics and wards and as an NCT practitioner, hearing concerns and positive stories week after week. You can read more about Laura’s insights into MSLCs on the MatExp website – home of lots of other great information – and more about  Laura’s work as reported in NCT’s journal Perspective. 

Inspiring things MSLCs/MSLC activists are doing:

  • Creating new infographics to inform and empower women attending clinics
  • Surveys of women’s experiences to give women a voice
  • Sharing stories written up in blogs
  • Co-designing birth centres/midwifery-led units
  • Organising conferences (see Michelle Quashie)
  • Identifying local priorities for change and working on them as a team in a SMART way

What you can do

If you care about making maternity services personalised, respectful, kind, responsive and geared to improving wellbeing and health for women and babies:

  • Network with other committed people and activists. Join MatExp Facebook group. Get involved with the Positive Birth Movement Join your MSLC or local maternity users’ group. If there isn’t one, talk to your local Consultant Midwife, Head of Midwifery, PALS service, Healthwatch &/or maternity commissioner. With social media (SoMe) it’s never been easier to set things up.
  • If you’re on an MSLC/maternity forum – join ‘MSLC leaders’ on Facebook and any local networks, such as the one we have for South London MSLCs and follow/use #MSLC on Twitter.

Find out more

Know about what local commissioners and services should be doing to support service user involvement

There are lots of MSLC resources and good practice case studies on the NCT website. (Scroll right down to the bottom and look in ‘Related documents’, too.)

Need help to get inspired or to get your MSLC moving? Take a look at Running your Maternity Services Liaison Committee: A practical guide from good practice to trouble shooting

[1] something called CLAHRC (pronounced  ‘clark’, and an abbreviation for Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care)

PPI in CLAHRC South London

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