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Survey reveals maternity service improvements – and concerns

Women’s experiences of maternity care have improved over the last three years, but concerns remain in critical areas, according to research by the Care Quality Commission.

The 2013 survey of women’s experiences of maternity care in England highlighted concerns around continuity of care, support during labour and birth, cleanliness and other issues. The findings are based on responses from more than 23,000 women who had a baby in February.

The survey showed more women than in 2010 felt they were always involved in decisions about their care, both antenatally (77%) and during labour and birth (74%).

More women than in the 2010 survey also said they definitely had confidence and trust in the staff caring for them during labour and birth, up from 73% in 2010 to 78%.

However, more women than the 2010 survey reported they were left alone at a time that worried them during labour and birth, up from 22% to 25%, and almost one in five women said their concerns during labour and birth were not taken seriously (19%).

For both antenatal and postnatal care, women who saw the same midwife each time tended to report more positively on areas of the survey.

Some women used the comments section of the survey to report experiences of poor pain management, while others said they felt “bullied” into breastfeeding.

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards said: “I’m encouraged there are improvements but in too many cases, the quality of care delivered is just not good enough. Women and their partners are being left alone when it worries them.

“Feedback in the comments shows at times, a truly shocking picture of experiences that should be the most joyous time in a woman’s life, not the most frightening,” he added.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome evidence of improvements in women’s experience of maternity care since 2010, but there are worrying findings, too.

“I am deeply disappointed about the high proportion of women who were left alone and worry about this during early labour.  It is sad, too, that vital postnatal care is a focus for women’s criticisms. We urgently need to change these things.

She added that efforts to tackle a national shortage of midwives needed to be “redoubled if we are to see fewer women have a negative experience of what should be among the happiest moments of their lives”.

An NHS England spokesman said: “The improvements to care are very encouraging but there is more to do. This survey emphasises that the role of staff during childbirth is key to ensuring women have a positive experience.

“NHS England will support and guide local commissioners to understand these findings and translate them into the excellent service women should expect,” he added.              

 

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