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The ongoing campaign to improve maternity services and support families as CQC survey finds care has deteriorated

The Care Quality Commission's Maternity Survey has reviewed the experiences of women and other pregnant people who had a live birth in February 2022. The survey was widened to January if a Hospital Trust had less than 300 eligible births in February.  More than 20,000 women responded to the survey.

Concerns over maternity units

The survey follows the data produced by Care Quality Commission late last year when it reported that nearly half of England’s maternity units require improvement and quoted the concerning statistic that out of 137 maternity units across England, only 62 had a good rating for safety. 

That meant that the remaining 75 units had 66 that required improvement and nine that were inadequate. That meant that nearly half of England’s maternity units required improvement.

Unsurprisingly the patients experience being reported in the survey has found that care has deteriorated over the last five years.

Last year, the Royal College of Midwives was reporting, that it still required a further 2,000 midwives and 500 obstetricians to be trained in maternity services. In response to that, the Government provided another £127 million to be invested in the maternity work. 

CQC survey finds positives but key areas for improvement

The survey reported a positive responses in respect of prompt discharge from hospital following birth and that mental health support during pregnancy had improved. 

However, the key areas needing improving including:

  • Availability of staff.  Patients were reporting that the ability to contact the midwifery team during the antenatal period if they needed support, had worsened. Similarly, during the actual labour, they felt the level of support had reduced and in respect of postnatal care again the results had reduced in respect of those being given help when needed. 
  • Trust and confidence had reduced over the last five years in respect of staff involved in antenatal, postnatal and also labour care. The survey also reported that there was a reduction in kindness after the birth.
  • There was a reduction in numbers reporting that they felt their concerns during pregnancy were taken seriously. The survey also identified that women who had an emergency caesarean section felt that the continuity of care was lacking after the birth. 

The Care Quality Commission will now be using the results of the survey to build up understanding of the risk and quality of services.

Supporting families access specialist help and establishing answers

At Irwin Mitchell we've a high number of maternity cases which involve missed opportunities during screening in the antenatal period, damage to either the baby or mother during the delivery and, very sadly, sometimes involving stillbirth and neonatal death. As a result we're campaigning to improve maternity safety nationally.

It's clear that this report has identified a reduction in the level of care not only in the antenatal period and during the labour but also in the postnatal period.  Through our work we’ve had experience of an increase in number of complications occurring in the antenatal period and sometimes due to the lack of postnatal support such as babies who do not feed correctly and suffer neonatal hypoglycaemia. The condition is very serious and can have catastrophic consequences for the child. 

As well as needing access to specialist support or lifetime care and therapies, one of the common themes I see when acting for families who have suffered from failings in maternity care is that they want the NHS to learn from their mistakes to  avoid other families suffering in the way that they have.

It's hoped that the Care Quality Commission will use the results of this survey and also the data last year about maternity units to help to drive up the standard reduce avoidable incidents.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting families affected by maternity care issues at our dedicated birth injuries section