Are maternity services a priority for local people?
Yes. While CQC's results highlight improvements, over the past two years at least 33 local Healthwatch have identified better maternity services as priority for their communities.
What common issues have been identified?
We’ve reviewed what people have told local Healthwatch and identified several common themes:
1. Involvement of mothers in the shaping of services
In some areas, there are concerns that inadequate funding and support could mean mothers are no longer meaningfully engaged in the commissioning and delivery of services. We believe action is needed to ensure that the quality of engagement mechanisms can be guaranteed.
2. Staff attitudes, support and communication
While some parents feel supported, others have to deal with what they experience as ‘very unsupportive’ members of staff who don’t listen to personal requests.
Whether due to pressures on maternity wards or communication issues, parents told some local Healthwatch how this caused distress and had a negative impact on their experience.
We’ve asked NHS England to see what can be done to establish a more consistent quality of experience for parents.
3. Mental health support for mothers
A significant number of local Healthwatch identified concerns about new mothers not getting the mental health support they need before and after giving birth.
Our recent report on unsafe discharge from hospital, as well as highlighting the negative experiences of some mothers, found that some services were offering excellent mental health support - good practice that needs to be spread more widely.
4. Access to prenatal care in the community
Concerns also exist about a lack of prenatal care in the community and a lack of available information about where and how to access prenatal care.
5. Infrastructure and environment
Creating the right environment can help mothers-to-be to feel empowered. However, evidence in some local Healthwatch areas show services to be uncomfortable and badly equipped.
According to a recent poll we commissioned half of women who have used a maternity service want to give feedback to help improve services - but seven in 10 do not know how to.
As well as calling on maternity services to do more to involve patients in the improvement of care, we have submitted evidence about the issues people have told local Healthwatch to a review of maternity services currently being undertaken by NHS England. We will continue to be involved in the review and will respond when the final review report is published.