In ‘The Future of GovTech’ series, we highlight tech startups with the potential to solve public sector challenges and transform the public services we all use. This week we talk to online pregnancy advice service Ask The Midwife.
Seven hundred-thousand women become pregnant every year in the UK. One-in-five of these women enter emergency services in the post-birth period. That’s one-hundred-and-forty-thousand recent mothers admitted to A&E annually — a pretty staggering number, and (this male writer imagines) a staggeringly stressful experience.
Part of the reason for the current dilemma lies in the NHS’s ongoing struggle to provide on-demand pregnancy health care. For many mothers, three antenatal sessions and just one post-birth six-week check-up are the only scheduled NHS appointments, the only chance to ask important, sometimes life-saving questions. This is a situation one new startup aims to change.
Ask The Midwife is a tech startup that provides online, on-demand health advice from registered midwives to women at all stages of pregnancy. “No more Dr. Google”, Ask The Midwife promises: you can get all the information you need, from a midwife, when you need it.
“I could see a gap in the market between NHS care and women using online services,” commented Hannah Harvey, founder of Ask The Midwife. “There’s lots of information online — on Google, for example — but there wasn’t really any professional presence. There wasn’t anywhere online that women could go, ask questions, and get a fast response from a midwife.”
The pregnancy advice service currently operates on a subscription or single-fee basis. Users can sign up to unlimited advice on a month-long & 9-month packages, or just pay-per-question as a query arises. Harvey hopes, however, that consultation will eventually be offered for free.
“Care for pregnant women is going to transform massively over the next five years…”
“We’re really trying over the next 6–8 months to integrate with NHS services. We want to integrate with as many NHS trusts as possible so we can offer our service to everyone who needs it.”
Ask The Midwife was founded in 2015, only eight weeks after Harvey herself had given birth to her first child. Many of the service’s employees are themselves recent mothers. The flexible hours Ask The Midwife offers its advice-givers unsurprisingly provides an easier income solution for midwives with young children than the full-time contracts and night-shifts offered by the NHS.
The budding company already has 6000 subscribers on its app and website. “Care for pregnant women is going to transform massively over the next five years,” Harvey comments. “The National Maternity Review’s ‘Better Birth Strategy’ in 2016 had a whole section on digital health innovation. The next five years are going to be shaped by GovTech and technology integrating with NHS services to make it better for all service users.”
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