Maternity Disparities Taskforce holds second meeting

Minister for women’s health, Maria Caulfield, and chief midwifery officer, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, has co-chaired the second meeting of the Maternity Disparities Taskforce.

The taskforce led a discussion into the role of primary care – including GPs, nurses, healthcare practitioners, pharmacists – in supporting women’s health before they become pregnant, known as preconception health.

This means not only identifying women who are at higher risk of poor outcomes linked to pregnancy and making sure they receive the right support, but also empowering women with information on how health conditions and risk factors could affect them and what steps they can take for a healthy pregnancy. This will help to ensure that mothers and babies receive the best possible care while the government and NHS work to tackle the COVID-19 backlogs, improving care and putting an end to the long waits for treatment.

Data shows there is an almost two-fold difference in mortality rates between women from Asian ethnic groups and white women, and they are also higher for black women. Black women are 40% more likely to experience a miscarriage than white women, and women living in deprived areas can have higher rates of stillbirths.

The taskforce discussed the barriers faced by some women in accessing information and services – these may be language barriers, levels of distrust or concerns from asylum seekers over paying for the services. They considered advice from experts, including what effective pre-conception care is, how to reach those most in need and how to make sure this care improves the health of women and their babies.

The taskforce members agreed there needs to be a more proactive approach to make sure the right care reaches these women and their families when they need it.

These interventions must be more targeted towards women from ethnic minorities, those who live in the most deprived areas and refugees, and should explore how the wider health and social care system can actively seek these women out and bring the services to them. For example, by working more closely with local organisations to understand the women it is trying to reach. To work towards this, the taskforce committed to listen to women’s lived experiences of access to preconception care and maternity care, and continue to engage a range of stakeholders to understand how they can improve care for women, and agree actions in the future.

 

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