The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have welcomed the findings and recommendations of a landmark report released today by MPs, into maternity safety in England. They welcome in particular the call for urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services.
The Health and Social Care Committee inquiry looked at maternity services in England and has made recommendations on what needs to change to deliver safe maternity care for all. As part of this, they commissioned an independent expert panel to evaluate the government’s progress against its key policy commitments in maternity care.
The report recognises that while the NHS offers some of the safest maternal outcomes in the world, there remains worrying variation in the quality of maternity care which means that the safe delivery of a healthy baby is not experienced by all mothers.
One of the biggest cause of concern identified by MPs was around staffing and culture in maternity services. The report said it recognised this had started to improve but there was a persistent ‘culture of blame’. The report called for urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services, along with an increase in budget for maternity services by a minimum of £200 – £350 million per year.
Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We have been deeply concerned for some time now about how stretched and understaffed maternity services in England are. We are well aware that this sort of pressurised environment can affect the quality and safety of care provided to mothers and their babies, and restricts the choices available to women. We fully support all the calls for urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in the report, including the additional funding, which must be a priority in the Autumn’s spending review.
“Alongside additional funding, it is essential that the Government commit to regular publication of independent modelling of the NHS workforce, so that across the health service, including in maternity care, there can be a shared understanding of the workforce requirements needed to meet demand now and in the future. This is the only way we can be certain to provide safe maternity care.
“We also strongly support the report’s recommendation to end disparities in maternal and neonatal outcomes among women from minority ethnic and socio-economically deprived backgrounds, and to implement a clear timeframe for achieving this goal. It’s unacceptable that these health disparities exist and we believe all women, irrespective of location, age, or ethnicity, should be able to access the same high-quality care.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Our maternity services are among the safest in the world, and getting safer, and most women who use them will have safe, good quality care. However, too many women are let down by the NHS, and sometimes the results of this are terrible and tragic. We must have a system that is open, and that recognises, investigates, and learns when things go wrong, so that safety continually improves and so that families get the truth, redress, and support they so often have to fight for.
“Midwives and maternity staff go to work each day to deliver a high standard of safe care, but often this is compromised by underinvestment, and lack of acknowledgement about the importance of leadership in midwifery. This in turn means that too many women, their babies, and their families, are not getting the service they should rightly expect and deserve. This is unacceptable for women and for the dedicated staff that strive to care for them.
“There is investment going into maternity to increase staffing levels, provide more training and to improve resources. The working culture in maternity services is also improving and the RCM in partnership with the RCOG is also working hard together to improve this further. However, all this this is against a background of a decade or more of serious midwifery shortages and underfunding. These reports show that the Government must step up and they must give our maternity services the staff and the money it needs, and they must do it quickly.”