Labour in dedicated midwife pledge
Labour is launching its health manifesto with a "Call the Midwife" pledge to guarantee one-to-one maternity care.
All women would be given a dedicated midwife during labour and birth under plans that would be enshrined in NHS rules, Ed Miliband said.
The party's plans to provide 3,000 extra midwives would make the promise possible, the Labour leader insisted.
A baby boom combined with a shortage of midwives has left some maternity services stretched to the limit.
Spending watchdog the National Audit Office raised concerns at the end of 2013 after staff shortages lead to some maternity units temporarily shutting their doors.
Its report said improvements had been made said since the introduction of a maternity matters strategy in 2007 but found an additional 2,300 midwives were needed.
Around three quarters of maternity units provided one-to-one care for most patients, the NAO also found.
Under Labour's plans a woman would receive care from a designated midwife for the entire labour, birth and period immediately afterwards.
Ahead of a visit to West Yorkshire today, Mr Miliband told of the "brilliant care" he and wife Justine received when their sons Samuel and Daniel were born.
But, evoking the hit television drama Call the Midwife, which follows a fictional team of midwives in 1950s London, the Labour leader said personalised care should be the norm for pregnant women.
Mr Miliband said: "When our two sons were born we received brilliant care from NHS midwives. I know how important this is for mothers, for babies - and for fathers too - at this special but nerve-wracking time for families.
"But too often staff shortages in the NHS means nurses, doctors and midwives feel they don't have the time to offer the care that they want - and families need.
"Call the Midwife shouldn't just be a TV programme from the past but part of our NHS future too. We need to ensure the NHS can offer every woman the personalised one-to-one care we expect from a modern and thriving health service.
"Our fully-funded plan will provide the extra staff including midwives needed to give them the time to care. Because it is time to care for our NHS."
Liberal Democrat spokesman Lord Scriven said: "Labour has a shameful track-record on midwifery. When in government they oversaw a critical shortage of staff with midwives' workload increasing by a quarter in just six years.
"By contrast Liberal Democrats in government secured a £140 million new fund for midwives to improve care and beat bureaucracy, freeing up time for one-on-one patient care.
"And now the Liberal Democrats are the only party to fully commit to funding the £8 billion shortfall in the NHS budget expected by 2020.
"Until Labour commit to meeting this shortfall in full they do not deserve a hearing on the NHS."
A Conservative spokesman said: 'Ed Miliband cannot afford his debt-funded promise if he crashes the economy like Labour did last time.
"We have already increased the number of midwives by over 2,100 since 2010 by cutting management and increasing efficiency. Since 2012, we have been investing and training 2,500 midwives every year to ensure that future mothers have a named midwife overseeing their care.
"By building a strong economy we have been able to secure more midwives for the NHS. Labour's reckless spending plans would endanger that economy and threaten our NHS."