Continuity of carer in maternity services should improve

A national survey by the Care Quality Commission has found that continuity of carer and access to midwives after giving birth are areas where improvements are needed in maternity services.

Recording the experiences of women who gave birth in February last year, the inspectorate revealed that the majority of respondents felt they were ‘always’ listened to by midwives and received appropriate advice at the start of labour.

However, to ensure that maternity services provide a consistently high-quality experience for all, continuity of carer, access to midwives after giving birth and perinatal mental health should seek improvements.

The most positive results from the survey relate to women’s experience of interacting and communicating with staff in maternity services, particularly during labour and birth. Despite this progress, the results indicate a poorer experience for many women postnatally compared to other stages.

Outside of the labour ward or birthing centre, a significant proportion of women felt they did not have access to the support that they needed and that the quality of information provided about mental health could be improved.

Nigel Acheson, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals and lead for Maternity, said: “The positive feedback from many women completing this survey is a reflection of the hard work and commitment shown by staff working in hospital maternity services across the country. However, it is disappointing that postnatally experiences continue to fall short, particularly in regard to women’s mental health needs. While most women surveyed were being asked about their mental wellbeing, a significant proportion felt the quality of information they received could be improved.

“It is absolutely right that the provision of specialist mental health services for pregnant women and new mothers has been recognised as a priority in the NHS long term plan and we hope to see the impact of this extended support in next year’s survey results. It is essential that trusts make full use of their individual survey results to identify where changes can be made to ensure consistent and high-quality care for the benefit of all women and their families."

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