Objective: There is evidence that continuity of care - increasingly a focus of maternity care policy in the UK - contributes to improved outcomes. However, uncertainty remains about which models of care are most effective in which circumstances, and why this is. A plausible explanation is grounded in the idea that the continuity elements of care contribute to and reinforce best quality care. The Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework describes the components and characteristics of quality care. As a first step in developing a maternity care evaluation toolkit, we adapted this Framework to see if it could be used to evaluate perceptions and experiences of different models of care. Design: A qualitative comparative enquiry using focus groups. From a six-phase thematic analysis, we first derived then compared the principal sub-themes from the focus groups and mapped these to the original Framework. Setting: Two health boards in Scotland. Participants: Pregnant women, new mothers, midwives and obstetricians who had experience of various models of maternity care. This paper reports findings from the pregnant women and new mothers. Results: These are presented in two parts: the seven focus groups with pregnant women and new mothers are reported in this paper; the five focus groups with midwives and obstetricians in our accompanying paper. Those using the maternity services had experience of caseloading midwifery, ‘modified universal provision’ and ‘high risk’ models of maternity care. While women from all groups shared certain perspectives, those with experience of caseloading midwifery were consistently positive, reporting positive relationships, tailored care and effective communication. Women experiencing other models of care, especially the modified universal provision model, tended to report more negative relational experiences: lack of information, lack of tailored care, and anxiety and confusion. Timing of the focus group (i.e. during pregnancy or after the birth) appeared to make little difference to responses. Mapping responses to the Framework's characteristics of care was straightforward; mapping also showed how the Framework's components of care are interlinked. Key conclusions: Our adaptation of the Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework as a data collection tool allowed us to compare women with experience of different models of care, and relational factors were identifiable in many responses. Positive responses were found in all models but were most emphasised in the caseloading midwifery model, suggesting that the experience of caseloading continuity and its relational elements is highly valued. While further work is required to identify if this can be linked to improved clinical outcomes, we have established that the Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework can be adapted as an exploratory tool for assessing perceptions and experiences of maternity care.
- Caseload midwifery
- Continuity of care
- Models of care
- Quality Maternal and Newborn Care Framework
- Quality of health care