Maternity Direct has been introduced at Basildon Hospital to allow expectant mothers to speak online with a registered NHS midwife about any non-urgent concerns they may have about their pregnancy.
“This app is a fantastic step forward to helping provide women with greater confidence during their pregnancy”
The app – described by the hospital as “free, secure and web-based” – is believed to be the first to interactively connect registered NHS midwives with pregnant women for instant messaging chats.
It was developed by the hospital in partnership with software company Acadiant Limited after feedback showed many pregnant women felt uncomfortable contacting their midwife between scheduled appointments and were unlikely to be reassured by online search results.
The aim of the app is to reduce the amount of unnecessary phone calls, hospital attendances and GP appointments being taken up for non-urgent issues.
The hospital also hopes the app will cut down on the number of missed appointments as it includes a calendar which provides users with reminders for upcoming maternity-related hospital appointments.
Lesley Overy, head of midwifery, nursing and quality at Basildon Hospital, said: “This app is a fantastic step forward to helping provide women with greater confidence during their pregnancy.
“With up-to-date information and a midwife to hand, women can access non-urgent support and advice when they need it.
“The need to organise non-urgent appointments may also be reduced, saving women time whilst protecting our appointments for those women who require closer monitoring.”
Karen Berry, the maternity commissioner of the acute commissioning team for Mid and South Essex, said the app would enhance continuity of care for pregnant women and would provide women with information about their choice of maternity services, along with access to personalised care plans.
“I’m very proud of the work the maternity team have done in creating the maternity direct app”
The development of the app was part of the hospital’s response to the national Better Births maternity improvement initiative, added Ms Berry.
The hospital is run by Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is working towards merging with Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust and Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
The three trusts are already working jointly under the Mid and South Essex University Hospitals Group and Maternity Direct is due to be extended to the other hospitals in the network within the next year.
Claire Panniker, chief executive officer at Mid and South Essex University Hospital Group, said Maternity Direct would “soon become the first port of call for women all over Mid and South Essex”.
“I’m very proud of the work the maternity team have done in creating the maternity direct app,” she added.
“To be able to chat online with a midwife and be guaranteed a response in a few hours for those issues that are not an emergency is so reassuring and will give peace of mind to women going through the normal but unexpected developments pregnancy brings.”