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National survey shows improvements in women’s experiences of maternity care

30/01/2018

Most women are having a positive experience of maternity care and treatment within the NHS, according to a survey of more than 18,000 people in England.

Published today (Tuesday 30 January) by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) the survey results reveal the responses from women who had given birth in February 2017 in services run by 130 NHS trusts across the country. They highlight improvements in areas such as choice of where to give birth, quality of information and access to help and support after giving birth.

Women were asked questions about all aspects of their maternity care from the first time they saw a clinician or midwife, during labour and birth, through to the care provided at home in the weeks following the arrival of their baby.

The results show that across the country, women were generally more positive about their experiences at every stage of their care, with most responses having improved or stayed the same since the survey was last carried out in 2015.

The responses to the 2017 survey show a number of notable trends, including:

  • The proportion of women who said they were offered the choice of giving birth in a midwife-led unit or birth centre has increased by seven per cent since 2013 (35% in 2013; 41% in 2015; rising to 42% in 2017). 
  • Over a third of women (38%) reported that they saw the same midwife at every antenatal appointment: a 4% increase since 2013.
  • 88% of women surveyed said that they were ‘always’ treated with dignity and respect during labour and birth compared to 86% who said this in 2015 (85% in 2013).
  • The majority of women (77%) reported that they were never left alone during the birth of their baby at a time when it worried them. This compares to 74% in 2015.
  • Almost six in 10 women (59%) said they could ‘always’ get help from a member of staff within a reasonable time while in hospital after the birth: an improvement of 5% since 2015.
  • 66% of women felt they were ‘always’ given the information or explanations they needed after birth before returning home (compared with 58% in 2013).
  • 98% of women said their midwife or health visitor asked them how they were feeling emotionally during their postnatal care; however, a smaller proportion (57%) of women said they were ‘definitely’ given enough information about potential emotional changes they might experience after giving birth.
  • While there has been an increase in the number of women who reported being offered the choice about where to have their antenatal checks compared to previous years (29% in 2013 rising to 31% in 2017), the majority of women in 2017 (69 %) said they were not given a choice about this aspect of their care.

Professor Ted Baker, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “This year’s survey shows some very positive results about the quality of maternity care being provided in the NHS. This is a testament to efforts and dedication of staff working hard to provide care for pregnant women and new mothers across the country.

“The survey identifies a number of encouraging data trends showing improvements in women’s experiences throughout pregnancy, during birth and postnatally, and it indicates a greater focus on women’s individual needs and choices.

“However, the scope for continued improvement remains, particularly in relation to women’s choices about their antenatal care and ensuring enough information is available to support women through any emotional changes they might experience after giving birth.

“Our own inspection work of maternity services so far shows that the majority of trusts are providing high quality care – with over 60 per cent of hospitals rated as either Good or Outstanding for maternity. However, this also highlights that further work is needed to narrow the variation that we know exists.

“I hope that NHS trusts will reflect on their individual results to understand what women using their maternity services really think about the care and treatment they provide. This will help them to identify where they need to make changes to drive improvements in the quality of care for the benefit of all women and their families.”

The full results for England, as well as individual results for each trust are available on the CQC’s website at www.cqc.org.uk/maternitysurvey

This is the fifth 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. The results are used by CQC as part of its wider monitoring of NHS trusts.

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