By: 16 November 2023
Innovative ideas supporting pregnant women and new mothers needed to address health inequalities

Head of Innovation at InnoScot Health, Robert Rea considers the women’s health opportunity for change 

 The need to address women’s health inequalities in Scotland remains a topical one for both healthcare practitioners and society at large. 

The Scottish Government’s Women’s Health Plan (2021-2024) – the first of its kind in the UK – set out key actions to reduce those inequalities and was drafted with the help of women sharing their real-life experiences. 

Upon its launch, MSP Maree Todd, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport said: “I believe that our vision for Women’s Health is an ambitious one – and rightly so. Women’s health is not just a women’s issue. When women and girls are supported to lead healthy lives and fulfil their potential, the whole of society benefits.” 

The plan’s forward-thinking framework gave recommendations for better treatment of endometriosis, the menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and heart disease. 

Ms Todd said the plan was born out of a desire for Scotland to become a “world leader when it comes to women’s health.” 

Now, three years in, long-term plans for improving maternity and neonatal care are being remobilised in the recovery and renewal period – and we can still be a global pioneer. 

While BMA Scotland recently claimed that “practical and substantive changes” had not been felt by women so far, Prof Anna Glasier, the Women’s Health Champion for Scotland, insisted that progress had in fact been made during this transitional phase. 

Indeed, she pointed out, there is now a women’s health lead in nearly every NHS board while a national women’s health champion was appointed back in January. 

In addition, a network of menopause and menstrual health experts has been set up across the country. 

Prof Glasier stated these appointments meant they were making steps towards “changing the culture of boards to pay more attention to women’s health in Scotland.” 

A dedicated platform has also been created on the NHS Inform website where women can access useful information and resources. 

Furthermore, the Women’s Health Plan continues to aim for a redesign of the pathways for maternity clinical care which will support delivery of timely and proportionate care for women with complex social and clinical needs, particularly those at increased risk of poorer outcomes. 

Similarly, the Scottish Government’s Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) policy remains a continued commitment to providing all children, young people, and their families with the right support at the right time. 

GIRFEC – “Scotland’s approach to help children thrive and grow to be all they can be” – notes the necessity for “growing, developing and being cared for in an environment which provides the physical and emotional security, compassion and warmth necessary for healthy growth.” 

That positive development path commences right from birth of course, and midwives use GIRFEC principles to support families to give their child the best possible start in life.  

NHS Scotland partner InnoScot Health believes health service innovators have a collective opportunity to align with both the Women’s Health Plan and GIRFEC by working collaboratively and inclusively to improve pregnancy and perinatal services for better outcomes. 

In particular, it is vital that we improve maternity and neonatal care for all women, babies, and families in Scotland, and place more focus on mental health and inequalities. 

That is why the organisation has issued a fresh call for the NHS Scotland workforce’s deep expertise and insight to come to the fore with innovative ideas and solutions in order to provide the right care for every woman and baby. 

Inspiring the workforce to come up with new ways of working is essential, and to help encourage staff to come forward, an InnoScot Health package for NHS Scotland staff includes support up to the value of £25k for initial seed funding, regulatory support, project management, and the extensive innovation expertise of its highly experienced team. 

Ideas that InnoScot Health are looking for could include: 

  • Devices for managing and monitoring pregnancy 
  • Innovations to improve labour and delivery 
  • Technologies for neonates needing specialist care 
  • Improving outcomes for mothers with co-morbidities 
  • Support for women experiencing mental health problems before and after delivery 

We are committed to putting our ethos into action and believe that it is important for us to get our supportive message out there. That’s why we’re sponsoring an event entitled Medical Problems in Pregnancy: Optimising Multi-Disciplinary Care which is taking place at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on Friday 1 December. 

This one-day hybrid conference will give a comprehensive update on key contemporary topics and give practical approaches to the management of frequently encountered clinical scenarios. 

For us, it is another important step in the right direction and acknowledgement of the great need to place women’s health at the centre of both government and NHS Scotland thinking. 


Image: Robert Rea, Scottish Health Innovations Ltd. (SHIL) Photograph by Martin Shields © Martin Shields