The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) responds to the latest annual national maternity survey by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The CQC annual survey provides a valuable picture of the experiences of those using maternity services, based on data from women and pregnant people giving birth in early 2023.
Significant improvement was seen in many areas relative to the 2022 survey results. Many respondents were positive about their interactions with staff, felt they were always given enough time to discuss their pregnancy at antenatal check-ups, and that any concerns during labour and birth were taken seriously. The results also show an improvement in mental health support, with 88% reporting they ‘definitely’ received enough support.
However, the results also highlight opportunities for future improvement. In 2023, only 60% of respondents said they ‘always’ received the information and explanations they needed. There are also opportunities to improve continuity of care, and women feeling their health professionals have a good knowledge of their medical history.
Respondents with pelvic floor problems reported worse experiences in being treated with kindness, understanding and compassion, as well as pain management. Pelvic floor problems can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, so it is vital that maternity teams focus on providing holistic care before and after birth.
Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “It is encouraging to see improvements in many areas of this important survey, with most women feeling positive about their interactions with staff, listened to and included in decision-making. Importantly, the majority of women also felt they received the mental health support needed. These results reflect the incredible job that maternity teams to do.
“The 2023 findings on availability of staff during labour and birth are undoubtedly linked to staff shortages, particularly in midwifery. Encouragingly, latest NHS workforce data show ‘green-shoots’ of progress, but future investment in recruitment and retention remains critical to ensuring all women can have a positive pregnancy and birth experience.
“There is clearly more progress needed to ensure women and people can always access the information and explanations they need, crucial to informed consent and shared-decision making and to an overall positive experience of labour and birth. The RCOG has produced a range of helpful resources to support maternity teams in this area.”
The RCOG supports maternity services within the system through its role as an educator; developing the curriculum, improving standards of care through clinical guidance, supporting career development through exams, facilitating professional development courses and events, and support services for its members. In addition, the College brings its specific expertise to bear on quality improvement programmes in maternity and strongly advocates on behalf of women and birthing people and its membership to ensure system wide improvements are identified and delivered.