Health and Social Care Committee report says maternity care in England requires improvement

Expert panel on maternity safety including Tommy’s Prof Alex Heazell has found that improvements in maternity services have been too slow.

A new report from the Health and Social Care Committee has found that although the NHS offers some of the safest maternal outcomes in the world, improvement in maternity services have been too slow. This means that the quality of maternity care is not the same for everyone and not every parent is experiencing the safe delivery of their baby.

The CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals reported evidence of a ‘defensive culture’, ‘dysfunctional teams’ and ‘safety lessons not learned’. Professor Ted Baker told the inquiry that more than a third of CQC ratings for maternity services identified requirements to improve safety, larger than in any other specialty.

MPs recommend urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services, with staffing numbers identified as the first and foremost essential step in providing safe care. 

Our Chief Exec Jane Brewin said:

“While this new report acknowledges that pregnancy and childbirth in the UK is usually a safe experience, it also highlights persistent issues that must be addressed. Rates of stillbirth and neonatal death are steadily declining, but variation in different areas and between ethnic groups is deeply troubling – and urgent action is needed to make any such progress in reducing premature birth rates, which is key to saving babies’ lives.

“This report is the latest in a long line to highlight understaffing in maternity services, and its impact on the safety of mothers and babies; the NHS must not only recruit but retain the obstetrics and gynaecology teams needed to give every family the best possible care. The Government has just invested £2m in an RCOG review of the best ways to spot early warning signs and save lives, but staff will need time and training to make sure its findings are put into practice. 

“Rather than lament its ‘requires improvement’ verdict, we must focus on the report’s clear recommendations for change, which the Government should prioritise in order to meet its National Maternity Safety Ambition. Every family should be entitled to the best care, and all those involved in providing maternity services have a role to play in reducing the unacceptable numbers of avoidable deaths.”

The inquiry has also made recommendations on what needs to change to deliver safe maternity care and save babies’ lives: 

  • Urgent action necessary to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services
  • Increase budget for maternity services by a minimum of £200-350m per annum with immediate effect
  • Government as a whole to introduce a target to end the disparity in maternal and neonatal outcomes with a clear timeframe for achieving that target
  • Reform litigation to award compensation for maternity cases based on whether an incident was avoidable rather than a requirement to prove clinical negligence 

 You can find the full report and more information on the Health and Social Care Committee website