The project: Assessing Kent’s maternity services
Following my degree with the OU, the BSc in Health and Social Care (2009), I wanted to put all my learning into action. With certificates in management, public health and communication under my belt, here is where it took me in 2010 as Chairperson of east Kent’s Maternity Services Liaison Committee.
Identifying a problem: lack of feedback on maternity services
The acquisition of feedback on our region’s maternity services has long been a concern for East Kent’s MSLC (Maternity Services Liaison Committee) as it has been for many MSLCs across the country. I feel that ‘feedback’ has in the past become a buzz word as well a source of anxiety to many committees. The intention in east Kent has been to identify trends, signpost people to appropriate services, for example Birth After Thoughts, whilst at the same time raising awareness of our MSLC and its work.
How it was tackled
One of the NCT teachers on our committee suggested using Facebook. The advantages being that Facebook is universal, easy to access, widely used and possible for service users on the MSLC to administrate without even leaving home.
The users made a profile page ‘Pregnancy Birth East Kent’. The page has been opened up to anyone on Facebook for viewing and for anyone to post on the ‘Wall’. There are no restrictions, no limitations and no boundaries.
The benefit of providing a service on Facebook
We have sought to gain people’s trust by letting them know what new services are on offer and day by day giving notice of any changes to services that were in place. Since then, the page has become a daily updated information channel for women in this area to check. The PCT and Maternity Services in the region can get their message out to users quickly about service provision and anticipated changes. What’s more, it builds a supportive, virtual community which takes account that pregnancy can bring isolation and bewilderment as well as anticipation and excitement.
The Facebook page has the potential to become transformative in terms of people’s health and wellbeing by offering support and solidarity in good times as well as bad. The combination of freedom and moderation by peer supporters offers women a benefit for bring in touch with the page.
The result: MSLC now get feedback
Established in this way, open, aware and accepting of difference, we gather feedback on policy and change, just as the MSLC was intending. Feedback now takes place alongside the dissemination of information to women.
The latest feedback gathered will be used by east Kent’s Maternity Service to plan changes in Postnatal Care provision. Airing views on Facebook has become a start for initiating discussion with commissioners and the local NHS maternity service.
This has ultimately reinforced the position that East Kent MSLC has always prided itself on – service users sitting as equal partners with health professionals, not just in commenting on but by invigorating, generating and developing service design. This supports a flourishing, 21st century MSLC, with both service users and health professionals working together within a changing financial and political climate.
Marketing the service
With power comes responsibility, though, and the MSLC has agreed that we should feature as full a representation of women as possible. We have designed a postcard to distribute to men and women at supermarkets and Children’s Centres across east Kent which advertises the Facebook page.
This has been the legacy of the OU’s BSc in Health and Social Care for me and most importantly for the families of east Kent. One day I’ll be back for the PhD!