More staff needed to roll out pregnancy scans at 20 weeks
All pregnant women should be offered a 20-week anomaly scan next year - but this is dependent on getting enough specialist staff to take up jobs, it has emerged.
Thousands of women are still not routinely offered the scan, mainly due to the failure to recruit sonographers.
The provision of the scans is among the objectives of the national maternity strategy implementation plan, which was launched yesterday.
The plan details the timescale for around 77 actions over the coming years
Asked how safe maternity services are now, the strategy's clinical lead Dr Peter McKenna said: "At the moment no hospital falls outside the confidence levels for safety. There is none about which we can say 'this service is unsafe'."
He said it is " essential as we move towards the new model of care, we improve how we deal with, and learn from adverse incidents. Adverse events in maternity services have devastating consequences, and the programme will focus on improving our review processes, and ensuring that the learning is shared across all our units."
Questioned on whether some smaller maternity units should close, he said that is a political decision.
"Our only interest is to ensure they are safe," he added.
Speaking at the launch, Health Minister Simon Harris admitted that confidence in maternity services was "rocked" after a number of tragic incidents including the deaths of babies in Portlaoise Hospital and the death of Savita Halappanavar.
"The strategy and the plan, while ambitious in scope, are wholly achievable. Make no mistake. Our services will require a fundamental overhaul. This cannot, and will not, happen overnight. We will therefore need to take an incremental approach to implementation; we will build as we go," he added.
"We increased the budget for maternity services this year with the provision of an additional €6.8m. That was up from an additional €3m provided in 2016."
A key element of the strategy is the establishment of maternity networks within hospital groups which aim to provide a greater consistency of safe care across regions.
The plan aims to give pregnant women more choice and also more support with the hiring of additional perinatal psychiatrists.