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CQC briefing on improving safety in NHS maternity services

10 March 2020
  • Public

Greater national focus on the safety of maternity care has helped to drive improvements for women and their families.

But there is still too much variation in the safety and quality of maternity services across the country, and more work is needed to ensure that all women have access to safe, effective and personalised care.

Today (Thursday 12 March) we have published a briefing paper discussing the key issues that impact on the ability of hospital trusts to provide high quality maternity care. It highlights what needs to change alongside good practice to share learning and support hospitals to make vital improvements.

The briefing – ‘Getting safer faster: key areas for improvement in maternity services’ - is based on an analysis of published inspection reports, the findings from the 2019 maternity survey and discussions with providers and members of the public at a coproduction event held last year. Based on this evidence – what our inspectors found, what women told us about their maternity care and what providers and the public told us – we focus on the need for action in the following three areas:

  • governance, leadership and risk management
  • individual staff competencies, team working and multi-professional training
  • active engagement with women using maternity services

The briefing is intended to help maternity services, their trust boards and stakeholders to focus on the action they can take to improve and ensure that women and babies get consistently good, safe care.

Dr Nigel Acheson, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals and lead for maternity, said:

Every pregnant woman wants a positive birth experience, and every member of staff working in a maternity service wants to provide safe, high-quality care. In most cases, that’s what happens. However, while CQC’s current NHS maternity service ratings indicate some improvements in quality since our first round of comprehensive inspections, we are still seeing too much variation in quality and safety across the country.

“It is particularly concerning that some of our inspections have found that issues identified in the Kirkup report five years ago are still affecting the safety of maternity care today.

“In some cases we have seen services where staff do not have the right skills or knowledge, where poor working relationships between obstetricians, midwives and neonatologists pose a barrier to safe care, and where there is limited oversight of risk and a lack of investigation and learning when things go wrong.”

“The continued national focus on the safety of maternity services is welcome – and we are seeing some positive change. However, the progress made does not yet meet the scale of the challenge and we must accelerate efforts at pace if the improvements in safety are to be achieved with the urgency needed.”

Last updated:
11 March 2020