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Maternity services 'positive experience' for most mothers

But new report says providers need to listen and respond to feedback from families

Mark Gould

Thursday, 04 August 2016

The majority of new mothers in England say they have had "positive maternity experiences", according to a new briefing* by The Picker Institute Europe.

The briefing uses data from recent national surveys which demonstrate "encouraging" improvements in care and mothers' experiences, but adds that there is room for improvement and that care providers need to listen and respond to user feedback.

It says that results from patient surveys should be "powerful tools" to ensure that staff feel supported to provide the best quality care. However, these should be complemented by other evidence, including feedback volunteered by families.

The report echoes England’s National Maternity review in saying "women and their families ought to have access to information… so that they can access support that is centred on their individual needs and circumstances".

It makes a series of recommendations including:

  • Personalised care plan: this plan sets out women’s decisions about care, and so it should reflect their wider health needs and is kept up to date as the pregnancy progresses. The plan should be developed by women with their midwife and other health professionals
  • Unbiased information should be made available to all women to help them make their decisions and develop their care plan. This should be through their own digital maternity tool, which enables them to access their own health records and information that is appropriate to them, including the latest evidence and what services are available locally;
  • Choice: women should be able to choose the provider of their antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care and be in control of exercising those choices through their own NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget. Women who choose to use the NHS Personal Maternity Care Budget could use it to select their chosen provider which is accredited and incorporated within the local governance arrangements
  • Involvement in care: women should be able to make decisions about the support they need during birth and where they would prefer to give birth, whether this is at home, in a midwifery unit or in an obstetric unit, after full discussion of the benefits and risks associated with each option.

The report concludes: "Maternity services are an important area for person centred care. As has been noted, childbirth is the most common reason for hospital admission in England. It is also an area where comparatively speaking people are more likely to want to exercise choice and select services that will deliver not just the right care but the right experiences. Childbirth is one hospital experience that every user hopes will be unforgettable. Evidence from national surveys is encouraging. The majority of new mothers in England report positive maternity experiences in NHS facilities. However, effective involvement, a pillar of person centred care, is not always being achieved particularly in postnatal care and there remains significant room for improvement in some key components of maternal experience."


* Paparella G. The state of maternity services in England. Picker Institute Europe, Policy briefing July 2016.

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