Tommy’s joins new taskforce to tackle disparities in maternity care for women from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer communities

A new Maternity Disparities Taskforce has been created to tackle disparities in maternity care experienced by women from ethnic minority groups and those living in deprived areas.

Representing the Health and Wellbeing Alliance Maternity Consortium, which we run jointly with Sands, Tommy’s is delighted to sit on the new Maternity Disparities Taskforce.  

The taskforce will be launched by Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care, Maria Caulfield, and co-chaired by Chief Midwifery Officer, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE. The team will meet regularly and is being given the responsibility to better understand the reasons some groups have worse experiences of maternity care.

When talking about the role of the new taskforce, Maria Caulfield says:

“For too long disparities have persisted which mean women living in deprived areas or from ethnic monitory backgrounds are less likely to get the care they need, and worse, lose their child. We must do better to understand and address the causes of this.”

Tommy’s will sit alongside experts from across healthcare, policy and government to explore the reasons for differences in maternity care. With this work, we hope to find out why women from diverse ethnic backgrounds and deprived communities are more likely to experience pregnancy complications and loss. The taskforce will then look at possible ways of improving their care and reducing these risks. This could include better personalised care and support plans, giving people more pregnancy and preconception information, and empowering them to make evidence-based decisions about their care. 

The government has made a pledge to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries by 2025. However, while progress is being made towards this target, the gap in maternity care and pregnancy outcomes for women and pregnant people from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer communities is not closing. The taskforce will identify the barriers faced by these groups and suggest ways the government can continue to improve care to further reduce the number of stillbirths and maternal deaths. 

The UK 2021 MBRRACE report shows that Black women are 4 times more likely and Asian women 2 times more likely to die during pregnancy and birth than White women. Women living in poorer communities were also twice as likely to die in pregnancy and birth than those in the most affluent areas. When examining all causes of maternal deaths, the report found that improvements in care may have made a difference to the outcome in 37% of cases. This highlights the urgent need to tackle these disparities and give all families the best possible chance of a healthy pregnancy.

Tommy’s Miscarriage Matters research series, published in the Lancet last year, also highlighted the increased risk of miscarriage for Black women for the first time, with Black women having a 40% higher risk than White and Asian women. Earlier this month, Prof Arri Coomarasamy and Prof Siobhan Quenby of the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research went on BBC News to discuss the work they are doing to investigate the reasons behind these findings, so they can make recommendations to better support Black women through early pregnancy. 

Jane Brewin, Tommy’s Chief Executive, says:

“We know that women and pregnant people from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to experience pregnancy complications and loss. This is also the case for people who live in more deprived areas of the country, which means some of the most vulnerable women and pregnant people are also at the highest risk of pregnancy complications. This is unacceptable. 

“We welcome the opportunity to participate in the Maternity Disparities Taskforce, representing the Health and Wellbeing Alliance Maternity Consortium. Tommy’s is committed to making the UK a safer place to give birth by challenging our government to do better for these families. We will continue to work with the Government and the NHS to improve and standardise care for all, starting with reducing disparities. 

“We must make sure that no matter who they are or where they live, every woman, and every family, has access to safe maternity care and is given the best possible opportunity to take home a healthy, happy baby at the end of their pregnancy.”