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Clinician Connect

Working together to establish the Maternity and Neonatal Network

29 Jun 2021 Reading time approximately


Collaboration has been key to establishing the ACI’s new Maternity and Neonatal Network; leveraging experiences and expertise from the ACI’s existing clinical networks and across the health system.

Established this year, the Maternity and Neonatal Network provides expert clinical advice and leadership to NSW Health on maternity and neonatal care, services and improvement.

The multidisciplinary network involves clinicians, consumers and healthcare leaders from the public and private sector. The network already boasts 350 members.

The aim of the Maternity and Neonatal Network is to:

  • improve the quality and experience of maternity and neonatal care for families
  • lead innovative solutions and better value care in maternity and neonatal care.

Collaboration has been key to establishing the network, an approach warmly received by clinicians, consumers and other stakeholders.

The network is led by a team of Executive co-chairs and clinical leads:

  • Morwenna Williams (Co-Chair, Clinical Midwife Consultant Representative)
    District Clinical Midwife Consultant / Midwifery Redesign Lead, Maternal Transfer Project, Western NSW Local Health District, Orange
  • Dr Ahmed Khan (Co-Chair, Neonatal Special Care Representative)
    Head of Department, Paediatrics, Gosford Hospital
  • Dr Danny Challis (Clinical Lead, Obstetrics)
    Senior Clinical Advisor (Obstetrics) NSW Health
    Conjoint Associate Professor, University of NSW
    Senior Staff Specialist in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Royal Hospital for Women
  • Dr Robert Guaran (Clinical Lead, Neonatal)
    Senior Clinical Advisor, Neonatology, NSW Health
    Senior Staff Neonatologist, Liverpool Health Service

Collaborating across the ACI and the health system

The NSW Health stakeholders that supported establishment of the new network include:

  • Ministry of Health
  • Clinical Excellence Commission
  • local health districts
  • specialty health networks
  • existing groups of clinicians in neonatal and maternity areas, such as the clinical midwifery consultants group, midwifery leaders group, neonatal intensive care unit managers group and many more.

The ACI clinical networks and teams that supported establishment of the new network include:

  • Aboriginal Chronic Conditions Network
  • Clinical Genetics Network
  • Emergency Care Institute
  • Intensive Care NSW
  • Mental Health Network
  • Paediatric Network
  • Primary Health Institute
  • Rural Health Network
  • Violence Abuse and Neglect Network
  • Clinical Information and Decision Support team
  • Clinical Innovation Redesign team
  • Consumer Engagement team.

Consultation with other stakeholders, such as Health Consumers NSW and the Clinical Excellence Queensland Statewide Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Network, was also key.

Why was the Maternity and Neonatal Network established?

“In recognition of the importance of maternity and neonatal healthcare, and the need to ensure continuous improvement, the functions of the Pregnancy and Newborn Services Network (managed by the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network) were reviewed in depth over the past few years,” explains Amanda Justice, the network’s manager.

“This resulted in a decision by the Secretary, NSW Health to move these functions to existing entities within NSW Health.”

Two new structures were created:

  • the Maternity and Neonatal Network at the ACI
  • the Maternity and Neonatal Patient Safety Program at the Clinical Excellence Commission.

The existing Maternity and Newborn team at the Ministry of Health was also strengthened to support statewide policy and project work.

What lessons can you share about establishing and managing an effective clinical network?

Amanda attributes the network’s early success to deep listening, curiosity and learning from and honouring past successes. “We are committed to building the future of maternity and neonatal care collaboratively,” she says.

“We have leveraged the collective experience, knowledge and expertise of the existing clinical groups in maternity and neonatal care, our Ministry of Health and Clinical Excellence Commission partners and ACI’s networks to establish this new network. We have developed many close partnerships, including with the ACI Paediatric Network, who have supported us in our establishment.

“The generosity of these stakeholders and hard work of the co-chairs, clinical leads and the ACI team that support the network’s initiatives has set the network up for success. We’re so excited to get to work.”

Achieving a membership of 350 in such early days for the network has been very encouraging.

What have been your major achievements so far?

Appointing the first network Executive and co-chairs, and holding the first Executive meeting in March, has been a significant achievement in establishing the network.

“Achieving a membership of 350 in such early days for the network has been very encouraging. Members come from diverse areas of health, such as local health districts, universities, research institutions, non-government organisations, specialty health networks and consumers. We encourage anyone who wishes to join the network to apply,” says Morwenna Williams, Executive Co-Chair of the network.

How do you maintain strong communication, collaboration and engagement with key stakeholders?

The network has established a digital collaboration and information sharing space using SharePoint and sends newsletters out to communicate with members.

In-person communication has been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions; however, the network has attended and presented at sector events, such as the NSW Australian College of Midwives Conference. An interactive session with attendees at that event generated insights into what matters most to midwives.

Word cloud with most prominent words being continuity, respect, trust and kindness.

What matters most to midwives in maternity care.

“We continue to engage and meet with groups the network supports, such as the neonatal groups previously supported by the Pregnancy and Newborn Services Network,” says Morwenna.

“We also use digital platforms like Teams to collaborate among co-chairs and clinical leads. We will use this approach as we embark on key network projects, when work is time-sensitive or requires input from multiple contributors.”

The network regularly works with maternity and neonatal counterparts at the Clinical Excellence Commission and in the Ministry of Health. “We collaborate and meet regularly to ensure clear communication and joined-up work. A key collective goal is to ensure that the interface for our clinicians and consumers are seamless. We want clinicians and consumers to be able to truly interact with us in ways that works for us all. This is a difficult goal to achieve but we will work to make sure we get there,” explains Amanda.

What are your key focus areas over the coming months?

The network will focus on increasing its engagement with stakeholders across maternity and neonatal healthcare, focusing on our purpose and direction, governance and structure, leadership and developing our knowledge base,” explains Dr Ahmed Khan, Executive Co-Chair of the network.

“We will also focus on supporting statewide forums and groups, collaborating on policies and guidelines and building partnerships with consumers and Aboriginal support organisations and stakeholders, among other business-as-usual work."

Learn more or join the Maternity and Neonatal Network

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