Most pregnant women and new mothers would recommend their local maternity services, according to a snapshot of NHS care.
Data for December drawn from responses from 10,001 women in England shows 76% would be extremely likely to recommend their hospital’s labour ward, birthing unit or home birth service to friends and family, while a further 17% would be likely to do so.
Only 2% said they would be unlikely or extremely unlikely to recommend the services.
The data comes from the latest set of results from NHS Friends and Family Test, the government’s flagship measure of patient experience.
Data for accident and emergency, and inpatient services have been published each month since April last year, but this is the first time that maternity services have been included in the figures.
Critics of the test have said it is a blunt tool because response rates at some hospitals are so low. In this latest survey, some hospitals quizzed fewer than 2% of eligible patients.
There are also concerns about variations in the way trusts handle the questionnaires, with fears that better performing trusts are more likely to seek responses than those that are weaker.
Asked about antenatal care when they were 36 weeks pregnant, most women also said they would recommend NHS services.
Some trusts scored poorly, including Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust in London, where 15% said they would be extremely unlikely to recommend the services, together with 7% who said they were unlikely.
Just 20% said they would be extremely likely to recommend the services, together with 17% who would be likely. The rest said they did not know or had no preference either way.
Overall, the response rate for England for all questions was 19%.
Dr Catherine Calderwood, NHS England’s national clinical director for maternity and women’s health, said: “Maternity staff work hard to provide excellent services for women across the NHS. The friends and family test provides an additional opportunity to capture feedback relating to maternity services.
“As hospitals are encouraged to follow up women’s responses with further questions about why they answered the way they did, we are making sure every pregnant woman or new mum has an opportunity to be heard. This will help us transform maternity services and better understand and meet families’ needs.
“The average scores across the three months this has been running would indicate that we are largely delivering good maternity services across the country. But that does not mean we can rest on our laurels and we must strive to improve wherever we can.”
Dr David Richmond, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “The friends and family test gives us a snapshot of how well we are doing using a simple question.
“Maternity services are provided by a multi-disciplinary group of health professionals and high quality care is reflected in effective teamwork. The answers provided indicate if we are meeting the needs of women and their families. This gives us a good overview of how we are performing.”
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said: “Listening to women and their partners has driven maternity improvements in the past and must form the basis for any future system. This survey provides a better process for gathering feedback but progress will only be possible if services act on the results.”
Latest results from the Friends and Family Test are published by NHS England.
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