Health minister apologises as birth trauma report finds ‘shockingly poor quality’ maternity care | UK News

A health minister has apologised after a new report concluded that poor care in maternity services is “frequently tolerated as normal”.

The parliamentary inquiry found there was “shockingly poor quality” in maternity services, which resulted in care that lacked compassion and a system where “poor care is all too frequently tolerated as normal”.

The Birth Trauma Inquiry – led by Conservative MP Theo Clarke and Labour MP Rosie Duffield – considered evidence given by more than 1,300 women and is calling for a national plan to improve maternity care.

It found that poor quality postnatal care was an “almost-universal theme”.

“Women shared stories of being left in blood-stained sheets, or of ringing the bell for help but no one coming,” the report said.

It has made 12 recommendations, including that the government implement a maternity commissioner who would report directly to the prime minister.

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‘The joy was sucked out of having a baby’

A long-lasting problem

Health minister Maria Caulfield told Sky News maternity services had not been where they should be and apologised to mothers who had been affected.

“I recognise that maternity services have not been where we want them to be, but there is lots of work happening in this space,” Ms Caulfield said.

“This has been a problem for a long time, and it is why maternity is a priority area in the women’s health strategy.”

She said the inquiry aims to get expectant mothers better care during their pregnancy, rather than wait until they are just about to give birth.

Some £1.1bn – more than a third of the NHS’ total maternity and neonatal budget – was spent on cash payments relating to clinical negligence in 2022/23, a Department of Health and Social Care report showed.

Other recommendations put forward by the Birth Trauma Inquiry include retraining and recruiting more midwives, offering a separate six-week check post-delivery with a GP for all mothers, provide support for fathers or nominated birth partners and better educate women on birth choices.

It also recommends extending the time limit for medical negligence litigation relating to childbirth from three years
to five years.

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What is birth trauma?

Read more:
Women ‘failed at every stage’ of maternity care
Mother left with injuries after giving birth breaks ‘silence’

Grieving parents demand nationwide guidance after failings

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said she was “determined to improve the quality and consistency of care for women throughout pregnancy, birth and the critical months that follow”.

Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary, called the report “groundbreaking” and said the Labour Party would work in the same bipartisan spirit to deliver results.

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‘A lot more work to be done’

After her own experience of a traumatic birth, Sandra Igwe set up The Motherhood Group and has spent the past eight years campaigning. She expected when she gave birth earlier this year for the third time, the outcome would be different.

“Sadly, the third time around, again, my concerns were dismissed and I was made to wait several days to give birth after being induced, and that added to my anxiety,” she told Sky News correspondent Shamaan Freeman-Powell.

Sandra Igwe
Sandra Igwe has spent the last eight years campaigning for better maternity services

“It has shown me there is a lot more work to be done.”

She is now working with Councillor Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Southwark Council, to get the experiences of women from diverse backgrounds in a maternity commission.

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‘Poor quality’ in maternity services

Cllr Akoto also had her own experience of being dismissed and ignored during labour, she said the statistics black and ethnic minority women face are “horrifying”

“I see myself and other black women as walking statistics. I see our lives in danger all the time.”

She says in order for quality of care to be improved across maternity service, inequalities need to bbe addressed. “If we get it right for those who are being negatively impacted, we get it right for everyone. So it’s important we all come together and resolve this” she says.


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