In its very worrying State of Care report published this week, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated 65 per cent of maternity services in England as either 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement'. This is an increase from 54 per cent in 2022. The poor rating of ambulance services has doubled from 30 per cent to 60 per cent.
Unfortunately, this is an all too common theme. Earlier this year, the CQC rated three maternity services at St Mary's Hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital and North Manchester General Hospital (run by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust) as requiring improvement following an inspection in March.
As a solicitor specialising in claimant medical negligence I see too frequently the terrible personal impact on women and their babies due to struggling maternity services. Staff shortages and internal tensions between staff, delays in accessing care and poor communication can all contribute to tragic outcomes for women giving birth.
Women from ethnic minority communities are also more likely to be impacted. Care is affected by racial stereotypes and a lack of cultural awareness among staff.
The CQC reports that many women are still not receiving the safe, good quality maternity care that they deserve. They face delays in accessing care, do not receive the one-to-one care from a midwife to which they are entitled or experience communication problems with staff looking after them, including being shouted at by midwives.
Higher demand and more pressure in the health and care system continues to affect the health and wellbeing of staff, with a high level of sickness.
Good practice needs to come from the top with a strong maternity leadership team. Improved communication, recording and documentation of key information to address patient complaints of not being listened to. There needs to be better support in place for staff, improved training, an environment where staff feel safe to raise concerns about unsafe clinical practice and better pay and funding.
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