Survey shows decline in maternity care over the last five years

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According to a recent survey, women who gave birth in recent years are experiencing a decline in the care they receive from maternity services.

The survey has been carried out regularly since 2007 as part of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) NHS patient survey programme. It collects data about the quality of maternity care that women and other pregnant people receive before, during and after birth.

Dropping maternity care standards

The 2022 CQC maternity survey was based on the responses of around 20,000 people. It was the first time that the CQC looked at trends from the last 5 years to understand how experiences of care have changed.

The data shows a significant decline in positive responses in most of the questions asked in the survey (21 out of the 26 questions). It found a “concerning decline” in getting help when most needed during labour and childbirth.

This supports similar findings from the CQC published in September 2022, where 7% of the 137 maternity units in England were assessed as posing a high risk of avoidable harm and a further 48% as requiring improvement.

The survey also found that:

  • 57% of respondents were always able to get a staff member to help after childbirth – down from 62% in 2019
  • 63% were able to get help when they needed it during labour and birth – down from 72% in 2019
  • 23% said they were not taken seriously if they raised concerns during labour or birth – up from 19% in 2017
  • 19% said they were not offered any choice about where to have their baby
  • Fewer than half of those who responded to the survey said their partners, or someone close to them, were able to stay with them when they were giving birth – compared with 74% before the pandemic
  • 71% were always treated with kindness and understanding after the birth of their baby in hospital – down from 74% in 2017.

Positive trends in maternity care

Despite the concerns raised by the survey, analysis also revealed several recent improvements. Since 2017, there has been a positive upward trend of women who have recently given birth reporting that there was no delay with their discharge from hospital, from 55% to 62% in 2022.

Over three quarters (78%) of those surveyed also said they had confidence in healthcare staff involved during their labour and baby’s birth.

In addition, support for mental health during pregnancy is reported as improving, although the CQC says there is room for further growth.

Support for people accessing maternity care

Hannah Carr is a specialist women’s health solicitor. She says:

It’s clear from the CQC maternity survey that there is lots of room for improvements in maternity services.

“It is absolutely vital that pregnant women’s concerns are taken more seriously during labour. They need more advice and support at the start of and throughout their labour, and they need to be properly advised about their care while in the hospital.

“While there are good maternity units, on the whole, maternity services are categorically falling short of women’s expectations.

“We need to listen to those who use and work in maternity services to understand what makes a good labour and birth experience and agree on what needs to be improved.”

If you or a loved one has experienced negligent maternity care, you might be eligible for compensation. Our team of expert, compassionate medical negligence solicitors will listen to you, and support you on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis.

For a free, no-obligation chat, call our Freephone on 0800 884 0777, email, or complete our online enquiry form.

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