Caledonian Connections

Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Advisor at NCTI’ve had a surprising number of chances this year to go to sleep in England and wake up in Scotland: the Caledonian Sleeper train experience leaves conveniently from Euston station, 3 minutes’ walk from the NCT London office, and arrives in Edinburgh eight hours later.

On behalf of NCT, I’m a member of the Implementation Programme Board for The Best Start – the Scottish Government’s new policy for maternity and neonatal services. The Best Start pledges a ‘family-centred, safe and compassionate approach to care; real continuity of care and carer, with vulnerable families offered additional tailored support; services redesigned to ensure optimal outcomes and sustainability, and… to support normal birth processes and avoid unnecessary interventions’. These are relevant and commendable goals and I am privileged to be part of the work putting them in place.

I’ve visited Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow during this project and listened to the voices of women, midwives and doctors in all of them. A stay of three days in February helped me catch up on all things Glaswegian: I visited an NCT Bumps and Babies group – with NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor – in Strathbungo and a Baby Café in Govanhill. Thanks to having a valued personal network in this city, I also chatted with two mums of wee boys under two – and a professor of midwifery!

Some of the stories I heard from the friendly mums in Glasgow were in accord with findings elsewhere so I was able to contribute a report, built from immediate feedback, to the Implementation Programme Board. The director of the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland supported me, with a comment that midwives’ accounts now also reflect that pressures on labour wards – while keeping the care safe – are nevertheless beginning to impact on the best-quality service that professionals want to provide.

The Board receives feedback from ‘early adopter’ programmes, and from subgroups focusing on continuity of carer and local delivery (I’m on this one); perinatal services; workforce and education; and remote and rural skills. There are 76 recommendations in The Best Start covering a range of services, divided into ‘local’ and ‘national’ implementation, though the board oversees both processes. It is a fast-paced process, closely focused on the evidence-based recommendations.

I contribute as much as I can – always urging services to engage with their local women and families – but would love to hear any further thoughts or experiences from service users or practitioners in Scotland, to help me make the right suggestions. Get in touch by email at or via twitter: @elizabethduff2.

Thanks so much to those who have already contacted or chatted to me, as well as Anne Budd, NCT Glasgow Branch Coordinator, for putting me in touch with local groups; also to colleagues on the Board for their helpful support.

This guest blog comes from Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Advisor at NCT.

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