NHS Watchdog Finds Substandard Care at 39% of Maternity Units in England

NHS Watchdog Finds Substandard Care at 39% of Maternity Units in England

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    The Health watchdog says that two out of five maternity units in England were providing substandard care to mothers and babies. The CQC said in its annual assessment of health and social care services said the quality of maternity care is not good enough.

    New figures published by the CQC shows that 39% of maternity units which it inspected up until 31st July require improvement or are inadequate. This is the highest proportion on record.

    The Chief executive of the CQC, Ian Trenholm, said that the maternity services were deteriorating and that the unacceptable substandard care was common even as failings were “systemic” across the NHS.

    The report says; “Our ratings as of 31 July 2022 show that the quality of maternity services is getting worse, with 6% of NHS services (nine out of 139) now rated as inadequate and 32% (45 services) rated as “require improvement”. This means that the care in almost two out of every five maternity units is not good enough.”

    The 39% is an increase on the 31% of maternity services that were rated inadequate the previous year.

    The other 51% of the maternity units visited by the CQC were either deemed to be good (57%) or outstanding (4%), down from 69% the previous year.

    The report said: “The findings of recent reviews and reports … show the same concerns emerging again and again. The quality of staff training, poor working relationships between obstetric and midwifery teams and a lack of robust risk assessment all continue to affect the safety of maternity services. These issues pose a barrier to good care.”

    According to Trenholm, there is a recurring problem of staff not listening to women during pregnancy and childbirth. He said their concerns are not being heard by midwives and obstetricians in the way that they should.

    Substandard Care at 39% of Maternity Units in England

    These findings by the health watchdog come two days after an almost three-year long inquiry by Dr Bill Kirkup found huge failings in the maternity care provided between 2009 and 2020 by the East Kent hospital trust. He said that forty-five babies who died might have lived if they had received a nationally recognised standard of care.

    The CQC also raised concerns over the slow pace of progress to raising standards despite the care scandals found at NHS maternity units.

    “Action to ensure all women have access to safe, effective and truly personalised maternity care has not been sufficiently prioritised to reduce risk and help prevent future tragedies occurring.”

    Sara Ledger, the head of research and development at the maternity safety charity Baby Lifeline, said: “It’s disheartening to see the CQC’s reported drop in quality of maternity units. It is all the more disappointing considering the many reports, recommendations and calls to action for improvements to maternity care that have been published in recent and not so recent years.”

    Meanwhile, Dr Caroline Johnson, the maternity care minister, has told the families affected by the maternity failures in East Kent that she is “profoundly sorry” and added that it should never happen again.

    She spoke about Kirkup’s report, calling it “a litany of failure that makes for very difficult reading”. She added that The trust “failed to read the signals and they missed every opportunity to put things right”.

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