You are currently using an unsupported browser which could affect the appearance and functionality of this website. Please consider upgrading to the latest version or using alternatives such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

Blog from RCOG President: maternity safety

17 May 2024

In this President Blog, Ranee Thakar shares her personal reflections on the latest maternity reports and the College’s commitment to improving maternity safety and supporting our members.

Over the last week, three reports focused on maternity experiences and outcomes have published: the Maternity and Newborn Safety Investigations (MNSI) national learning report, the APPG for Birth Trauma inquiry report, and the Sands and Tommy’s ‘Saving Babies Lives’ progress report.

Every death and injury to a baby or mother is a tragedy, deeply impacting all those involved, and it is right that maternity care experiences and outcomes continue to be examined. However, I am acutely aware of the impact on our members, who go to work every day to deliver the best possible care in services stretched to their limits.

Over a decade of under investment has impacted almost every aspect of NHS maternity care, from recruitment and training, to safe staffing levels, to having fit for purpose estates and equipment.

These reports also highlight the absence of joined-up cross government action to tackle critical systemic issues, such as racial and social economic inequalities.

The RCOG has consistently called for the government to implement fully funded policies and programmes to ensure all women receive high-quality, personalised and safe maternity care. We call for the next government to commit to this, and for a time-limited target to end the higher risk of maternal mortality among Black, Asian and ethnic minority women and women living in more deprived areas. The Secretary of State’s agreement to introduce a comprehensive, cross-government national strategy on maternity is a step in the right direction.

We worked closely with Theo Clarke MP on her parliamentary work on birth trauma, providing written evidence to the APPG inquiry. Giving evidence in-person, I spoke about the importance of OASI Care Bundle implementation, access to specialist pelvic health services and perinatal health care. This month, I also participated in a roundtable with the Shadow Minister for Women’s Health and Mental Health, highlighting the pressure maternity teams are under and the urgent need for action. We will continue to use our influence with government, DHSC and NHS England to advocate for our members, and the women you care for, at the highest levels. 

Ensuring the College continues to do everything possible to support our members in delivering safe, compassionate and personalise care is an absolute priority for the RCOG Vice Presidents and myself. Our maternity safety hub details all the College’s work in this area, through our role as an educator, developing the curriculum and supporting career development through exams, delivering professional development courses and events, and improving standards of care through clinical guidance, and additionally working with partners to deliver quality improvement programmes.

The hub collates the wealth of RCOG resources already available to assist our members and local maternity systems, and outlines our ambitious plans for future work to support improvements in maternity care. This includes the development of educational resources for multidisciplinary teams on evidence-based approaches to safety and developing compassionate engagement and care skill, and new courses on fetal monitoring and Human Factors training.

This critical work will be supported by the recently convened RCOG Independent Advisory Group for Maternity Safety, bringing together individuals with knowledge and expertise within the field of maternity safety. The College is also in the process of establishing an RCOG Maternity Safety Research Centre in partnership with the University of Birmingham, where the best evidence and robust research approaches to improve safety and close gaps in research will be identified.

We recognise the College has a vital role to play in amplifying your experiences and concerns. With colleagues at the RCM, through our One Voice partnership, I will also continue to visit maternity units this year to hear directly from members, both about innovation and progress being driven locally but also about the reality of the pressures you face and impediments to implementing change.

Through the Independent Maternity Working Group, we can ensure frontline staff voices inform government action and identify where the DHSC needs to commission additional work to address improvement barriers, and to disseminate best practice across the NHS to support local progress.  The College will also champion our members’ voice, and showcase the compassionate and committed care that you provide, to drive accurate and balanced media reporting.

Thank you for everything you do to care for women at one of the most important times of their lives. These are incredibly difficult times and I encourage you to look after your wellbeing and mental health, and to support each other. Together, we will work towards a better future for the maternity profession and the families we serve. 

  • Careers and workforce
  • Policy and governance
  • Pregnancy and birth