The 2023 maternity survey by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), England’s health and social care regulator, shows that despite some positive improvements there continues to be a long-term decline in people’s experience of maternity care.
The CQC survey found that people's experience of antenatal care has improved since 2022. However, a key area where improvements are needed is around the availability of staff and communication and interaction with staff.
Both of these are fundamental to the delivery of safe care. Far too many people reported being left alone at some point during labour and birth, at a time that worried them, or that they were not given the opportunity to ask questions about their labour and birth.
It is also important to note that this annual survey excludes the voice of bereaved parents, which means those who have experienced the worst outcomes are not being heard.
Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit responds to the survey results
The Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit was set up to identify the key changes needed to save babies lives, reduce inequalities and improve outcomes for families, and ensure that decision makers are informed and accountable for improving maternity care.
“Today’s Care Quality Commission survey of maternity care shows that despite some positive parent experiences, there remain key areas for improvement to ensure everyone is able to benefit from high-quality care throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period. Future surveys must include the voice of bereaved parents, so that those who have experienced the worst outcomes are reflected.
“The Government are not on track to meet their ambitions to reduce rates of stillbirth, neonatal death or preterm birth by 2025. To make progress towards these, government and the NHS must commit to the transformative change needed to ensure everyone can benefit from safe, high quality care.”
- Robert Wilson, Head of Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit.
Key findings from the Maternity Survey
There has been some welcome improvements since 2022.
- Experience of antenatal care has improved and includes an increase in reporting ‘always’ given enough time to ask questions or discuss their pregnancy at antenatal check-ups (81% in 2023 up from 77% in 2022).
- Survey respondents also reported an increase in people reporting that midwives providing antenatal care ‘always’ listened to them (an increase from 80% in 2022).
However, in some key areas there continues to be a long term decline in people’s experience, particularly around availability of staff and communication and interaction with staff:
- When in hospital during labour and birth, almost a third (32%) people were left alone at some point during, or shortly after, the birth at a time when it worried them. Five-year trend analysis for this question shows a decline in experience since 2018.
- In 2023 just over half of respondents (55%) were ‘always’ able to get a member of staff to help them when they needed it while in hospital after giving birth (down from 57% in 2022) and 10% said they were not able to get help at all.
- While there is no statistically significant change between 2022 and 2023 in the percentage of people reporting they had the opportunity to ask questions about their labour and birth, one in four respondents (24%) were not given this opportunity
What needs to happen to improve maternity safety
A number of recent reviews and investigations have highlighted how maternity services are not consistently delivering the safe high-quality care that everyone deserves.
Our Saving Babies’ Lives progress report made clear that systemic issues in maternity services need to be addressed.
Today’s data show there are still key areas for improvement to ensure everyone is able to benefit from high-quality care throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period.
To make progress towards the ambition to reduce rates of stillbirth, neonatal death or preterm birth by 2025, both Government and the NHS must commit to the transformative change needed to ensure everyone can benefit from safe, high quality care.
Sands is here to support you
Sands offers support and training to midwives, and other healthcare workers, to ensure they have the skills they need to both care for bereaved families, and to look after their own wellbeing.
We are here to support anyone affected by pregnancy loss or the death of a baby, however recently or longer ago, for as long as they need this.