Most expectant and new mothers are experiencing better maternity care, finds national survey
Findings from the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) national survey of more than 20,000 women suggest that the majority who gave birth in February this year had a better experience overall compared to the results from previous years, across the 133 NHS trusts in England. Access to midwives, choice of where to give birth, and the quality of information are particular areas where the NHS appears to have improved.
Published today (Tuesday 15th December), the findings highlight women’s responses to questions across themes such as access to care, personal choices, type of birth and emotional wellbeing.
The responses from women indicate they have had positive experiences as a result of being first seen by a midwife, being offered a midwife led unit and always being spoken to in a way that is understood.
Being treated with dignity and respect, having clean wards, toilets and bathrooms and more support for feeding also featured favourably in the survey responses.
This is the fourth survey of its kind that CQC has carried out in order to help NHS trusts understand what women’s experiences are of their maternity care and to make improvements. CQC uses this intelligence as part of its wider monitoring of NHS trusts.
Notable trends from this year’s statistical report include:
• The proportion of women who reported that the first healthcare professional they saw about their pregnancy was a midwife has nearly doubled in the last eight years – around two fifths (37%) reported this in 2015, up from around a fifth (19%) in 2007 (32% in 2013).
• 59% of women in 2015 said they received their first ‘booking’ appointment before they were 10 weeks pregnant, compared to 37% in 2007.
• 41% of women said they were offered a choice of giving birth in a midwife led unit or birth centre; a 6% increase from 2013 (35%).
• Over a third of women (36%) reported that they saw the same midwife at every antenatal appointment, 2% more than in 2013, although 35% this year said they did not mind.
• 89% of women said that during their antenatal care they were “always” spoken to in a way they could understand – up by 7 percentage points since 2007 (82%). However, this means that 11% were not “always” spoken in this way.
• Nearly two thirds of women (62%) said they felt they were “always” given the information or explanations they needed whilst in hospital and after the birth of their baby; an increase of 3 percentage points compared to 2013 (59%).
• Support during and after pregnancy has considerably improved rising from 42% in 2007 to 63% of women in 2015 saying they felt that midwives and other health professionals gave active support and encouragement about feeding their baby.
• 87% of women reported that they were always treated with dignity and respect during labour and birth compared to 85% in 2013.
• The proportion of women being in a position of lying with legs in stirrups whilst having a normal vaginal delivery has seen a steady increase over the past few years going from 17% in 2010, to 19% in 2013 and 22% in 2015.
Commenting on the maternity survey, Professor Sir Mike Richards, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “Every single woman deserves to be treated with dignity and personalised care when having a baby, and so I am glad that the findings suggest women are experiencing better care and treatment during pregnancy and birth.
“The survey identifies some examples of encouraging data trends showing improvements across a number of areas, and reinforces the importance of NHS trusts focussing on women’s individual needs and choices.
“From our own inspection work of maternity services so far – rating just over 60 per cent of trusts as either Good or Outstanding – there is no doubt of the improvement work that is still needed in order to narrow the wide gap of variation that we know exists.
“I hope NHS trusts will make full use of their individual survey results so that they can translate the delivery of maternity services into consistent and high-quality care for the benefit of all women and their families.”
CQC is now studying the statistical findings of its maternity survey closely before publishing an official response document in the new year. This report will provide more analysis and opinion on the survey results across each of the five key areas that CQC inspects against.