Survey shows maternity experience continues to decline

A survey of around 10,000 women and people who gave birth in early 2022 has found a continued decline in experiences of maternity services over the past 5 years.

A new report by England’s health and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), shows that since 2017 there have been continuous falls in the availability of staff, confidence and trust in services, and communication and interaction with staff. 

In 2022 only 63% of women and birthing people said they were ‘always’ able to get a member of staff to help them when they needed attention during labour and birth, compared to 72% in 2019. 

Two-thirds (69%) of women and birthing people said they ‘definitely’ had confidence and trust in the staff delivering their antenatal care.

77% of women and birthing people said that if they raised a concern during labour and birth, they felt it was taken seriously. In 2017 it was 81%.

The CQC survey did indicate some small improvements in mental health support during and after pregnancy but concludes that there remains room for further improvement.

Nearly half of the 20,927 women and birthing people who gave birth in England across February 2022 took part in the survey.

Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit responds

The Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit was set up to identify the key changes needed to save babies' lives, reduce inequalities and improve outcomes for families, and ensure that decision makers are informed and accountable for improving maternity care.

Rob Wilson, Head of Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit, says: 

The results of this survey should be a wake-up call for government and the NHS. While some areas have improved since the pandemic, fundamental issues around trust in care, getting help when needed and having concerns taken seriously are still getting worse. 

This continued decline is unacceptable. We need much stronger commitments from government to put in place the funding, workforce and systems to ensure safe, personalised maternity care. This is vital if the government is going to achieve its ambitions to reduce rates of stillbirth, premature birth and neonatal death.

We are also concerned about feedback which shows people do not feel involved in their own care and can struggle to make themselves heard. There has been a downward trend since 2017 in women and pregnant people who felt concerns raised during labour and birth were taken seriously.

Listening to those giving birth is vital to the delivery of safe care. Based on our expertise, we know that services must actively engage with, learn from and listen to the needs of women and birthing people. 

The CQC maternity survey does not capture the voice of bereaved parents – we believe it’s vital that steps are taken to capture the experience of  parents who  have lost a baby to understand the care they received.  

The NHS is currently developing a new 'delivery plan' for maternity and neonatal services. The CQC findings highlight the need for fundamental change and we will be working together to hold the Government to account on these vital improvements.  

This is why Tommy’s is working in partnership with Sands to make sure there is a commitment to properly evaluate the systems and processes we currently have in place to support improvements in the safety of maternity services.