More than half of maternity units in England are not meeting Care Quality Commission (CQC) safety standards, according to a report published by the BBC.
BBC analysis of CQC reports claimed that 7% of units were rated as posing a high risk of avoidable harm, and a further 48% required improvement, figures it said were ‘slightly worse than a few years ago’.
In response, Victoria Vallance, CQC’s director of secondary and specialist healthcare, told Nursing in Practice that some action is needed: ‘Across the country we know that most women receive good, safe care during pregnancy, labour and postnatally, but sadly that’s not everyone’s experience.
‘At some NHS trusts we have found that issues such as the quality of staff training; a lack of robust risk assessment; and a failure to engage with, learn from and listen to the needs of women are still impacting on the safety of services and we have been clear with those hospitals where action must be taken.’
Ms Vallance said that although an increased national focus on maternity safety in recent years was welcome, the pace of change needed to be ‘accelerated’.
‘There is more to do, and we cannot afford to lose momentum. Safe, high-quality maternity care for all is not an ambitious or unrealistic goal. It should be the minimum expectation for women and babies – and is what staff working in maternity services across the country want to provide,’ she added.
An update on safety, equity, and engagement in maternity services in England will be included in the CQC’s State of Care report, due to be published next month.
NHS England announced a £127m funding boost for maternity services earlier this year following a string of high-profile maternity scandals at trusts such as Morecambe Bay, East Kent and Shrewsbury and Telford. However, this was short of the £200m-£350m recommended by the Health and Social Care Committee in June 2021.
Senior midwife Donna Ockenden led the review of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, the final report of which was published earlier this year and found ‘repeated failures’ spanning two decades.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has said the Government must fix worsening staffing shortages in maternity services to ensure patient safety.
Meanwhile, a year-long inquiry by childbirth charity Birthrights suggested that systematic racism within UK maternity care was putting the safety of people from black, Asian and mixed ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds at risk.
Research commissioned by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also suggested that maternity care in the UK was ‘failing’ to reach pregnant women living in adverse social circumstances; while the Maternity Disparities Taskforce agreed a more proactive approach was needed to ensure the right care reaches marginalised women and their families when they need it.