At the end of last year, multiple reports sadly showed increases in stillbirths, maternal deaths and inequalities in maternal outcomes for Black and Asian women. We know this is unacceptable and more needs to be done.
These reports continue to highlight the need for the Government to urgently address and improve maternity services. Which is why we won’t stop until better care is in place for every parent and every baby.
As part of the work of our Joint Policy Unit with Sands, we recently called on the Chair of the Health and Social Committee, Steve Brine MP, to fulfill the commitments that were made in 2021 to review the safety of maternity services.
Read the full letter below:
Last year the charities Sands and Tommy’s came together to form a joint policy unit. We are focused on achieving policy change that will save more babies’ lives during pregnancy and the neonatal period and tackling inequalities in loss, so that everyone can benefit from the best possible outcomes. The committee’s previous work on maternity safety has been key to driving awareness politically of the need to adequately resource services, holding the government to account for its commitments to improve outcomes.
Unfortunately, work in this area remains an urgent priority. Rates of stillbirth in England and Wales increased in 2021 after declines over previous years. We remain a long way off the government’s ambition to achieve a 50% reduction by 2025 - relative to 2010 levels. There have been recent increases in rates of maternal death, and there continue to be stark inequalities in maternity outcomes by ethnicity and deprivation. Black women are nearly four times more likely than White women to die during or shortly after pregnancy, and Asian women nearly two times more likely. Women from ethnic minorities and those living in more deprived areas are more likely to experience stillbirth and neonatal death, and Black women are 40% more likely to experience miscarriage than White women.
Independent reviews into maternity services at East Kent and Shrewsbury and Telford have highlighted the need for a much more comprehensive approach to improving the safety of services. Added to this there is an ongoing review of maternity services in Nottingham. It is vital that the committee fulfills its previous commitments to review progress made since the publication of its 2021 report into the safety of maternity services. That report recommended:
- Urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services.
- Increased budget for maternity services by a minimum of £200-350m per annum.
- 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.
We would like the committee to publish a two-year on progress report in 2023, to continue holding government to account for action on these important recommendations. As a unit we are reviewing the current policy approach to maternity safety. We would be very happy to provide support to the committee on this important agenda.
Although we did receive a response from Steve acknowledging our suggestion and offer of support, we have yet to hear what steps the Health and Social Care Committee will take to address the issues outlined in our letter.
As always, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more.