Feedback from patients using NHS maternity services has a “key role to play” in tracking quality of care and shaping service improvements, according to a new report from a think-tank.
The report, published today by the King’s Fund, highlighted the importance for both patients and staff of collecting and using feedback.
“Acting on user feedback encourages a sense of responsibility and pride among staff”
It also emphasised the key role of maternity leaders in prioritising, communicating and acting on feedback as part of a culture of improvement.
The think-tank noted that birth was the UK’s most common reason for hospital admission, and for many women pregnancy was their first experience of ongoing contact with specialist health services.
The report – titled User feedback in maternity services – was based on research commissioned by the Department of Health into how best to collect and use feedback at a local level.
It suggested that those seeking to strengthen their approach to user feedback should develop a clear view of the value and purpose of user feedback that staff throughout the organisation can support.
They should also ensure that feedback was not only collected, but also acted on, so that staff and patients remained engaged in feedback activities.
“A mixed methods approach to gaining the views of service users is the best approach”
Participation should be sought from maternity service users at all stages of the feedback process, from the development of collection tools to the design of service improvements, added the report.
Additionally, it said sufficient time and resources should be given to the collection and analysis of user feedback, and translating this information into action.
In February, the national maternity review’s Better Births report, commissioned by NHS England, set out proposals to make care safer and to give women greater control and more choices.
- ‘Distressingly’ wide variation in quality of maternity services
- Call for ‘radical’ changes to maternity staffing models
- The key recommendations from the maternity review
NHS England also established a maternity challenge fund to support the vision outlined in the report, by promoting new and innovative approaches to using patient feedback in maternity services.
Patient feedback ‘crucial’ for improving maternity care
Lillie Wenzel, a policy fellow at the King’s Fund, said: “User feedback is crucial for helping organisations to gain insight into the experience of those who use their services and, through that, to understand the quality of their services.
“As well as helping to shape service improvements, listening to and acting on user feedback encourages a sense of responsibility and pride among staff in the services they deliver,” she said.
“Collecting and acting on feedback has a key role to play in implementing the vision set out in the national maternity review,” said Ms Wenzel.
She added: “We found many examples of good practice which we hope will inspire other maternity service providers to give this greater priority.”
Sarah-Jane Marsh, chair of NHS England’s maternity transformation programme board, said services could only be transformed by listening to women and and understanding their experiences.
“I absolutely support this report and recommend that everyone involved in maternity services embraces it,” said Ms Marsh, who is also chief executive of both Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Birmingham Women’s Hospital.
Quarter of stillbirth investigations ‘not good enough’
Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, highlighted that the report provided “practical help” for services to enhance their collection and use of feedback.
“It is clear that a mixed methods approach to gaining the views of service users is the best approach,” she said. “This is not at all surprising given the diversity of the childbearing population.
“Recent reports into maternity services such as the England review: Better Births, emphasise the importance of personalising care,” she said. “It is only by seeking feedback and incorporating it into the care provided that this aim will be achieved.”
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the National Childbirth Trust, added: “We are in strong agreement with the conclusions of this useful report on the importance of feedback from service users in maternity care.”