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The challenges and opportunities for implementing group antenatal care ('Pregnancy Circles') as part of standard NHS maternity care: A co-designed qualitative study

Wiseman, O. ORCID: 0000-0003-4890-9435, Emmett, L., Hickford, G. , Knight, M., Lazar, J., Yuill, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-3918-5917 & McCourt, C. ORCID: 0000-0003-4765-5795 (2022). The challenges and opportunities for implementing group antenatal care ('Pregnancy Circles') as part of standard NHS maternity care: A co-designed qualitative study. Midwifery, 109, article number 103333. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2022.103333


OBJECTIVE: To identify the challenges and opportunities for rolling out a bespoke model of group antenatal care called Pregnancy Circles (PC) within the National Health Service: what kind of support and training is needed and what adaptations are appropriate, including during a pandemic when face-to-face interaction is limited.

DESIGN: Exploratory qualitative study (online focus group). Study co-designed with midwives. Data analysed thematically using an ecological model to synthesise.

SETTING: Five maternity services within the National Health Service.

PARTICIPANTS: Seven midwives who facilitated PCs. Three senior midwives with implementation experience participated in the co-design process.

FINDINGS: Three themes operating across the ecological model were identified: 'Implementing innovation', 'Philosophy of care' and 'Resource management'. Tensions were identified between group care's focus on relationships and professional autonomy, and concepts of efficiency within the NHS's market model of care. Midwives found protected time, training and ongoing support essential for developing the skills and confidence needed to deliver this innovative model of care. Integrating Pregnancy Circles with continuity of carer models was seen as the most promising opportunity for long-term implementation. Midwives perceived continuity and peer support as the most effective elements of the model and there was some evidence that the model may be robust enough to withstand adaptation to online delivery.

KEY CONCLUSIONS: Midwives facilitating group care enjoyed the relationships, autonomy and professional development the model offered. Harnessing this personal (micro-level) satisfaction is key to wider implementation. Group care is well aligned with current maternity policy but the challenges midwives face (temporal, practical and cultural) must be anticipated and addressed at macro and meso level for wider implementation to be sustainable. The PC model may be flexible enough to adapt to online delivery and extend continuity of care but further research is needed in these areas.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Implementation of group care in the NHS requires senior leadership and expertise in change management, protected time for training and delivery of the model, and funding for equipment. Training and ongoing support, are vital for sustainability and quality control. There is potential for online delivery and integrating group care with continuity models.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Publisher Keywords: Maternity, Group antenatal care, Implementation, Midwives, Continuity of Care, Codesign, Covid-19, Centering Pregnancy
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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