Maternity care can be ‘truly shocking’ says CQC

Giving birth on the NHS can be a ‘truly shocking’ experience warns the CQC after a maternity care survey reports patients were bullied and abandoned.

In a recent survey of 23,000 new mothers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found too many women were enduring “shocking and frightening” experiences during their maternity care.

The results, which recorded experiences of those who gave birth during February 2013, found that a quarter of respondents were left alone during labour or birth, at a time that worried them, and that many patients reported feeling “bullied” into breastfeeding.

The report also concluded that many maternity care teams were failing in patient’s pain management, as well as leaving patients in unclean environments and even allowing some women to give birth on the floor when units were too full. In all, one in four patients said they were unsatisfied by the quality of care they received.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief of Hospitals at the CQC, said the comments from women painted “a truly shocking picture of experiences” during a moment “that should be the most joyous time in a woman’s life, not the most frightening.”

The regulator drew attention to the fact that improvements had been made in certain aspects of maternity care since the previous survey, with more women reporting feeling involved in decisions made about their care.

“I’m encouraged there are improvements,” said Professor Richards, “but in too many cases, the quality of care delivered is just not good enough.”

In response to the findings, Dr Dan Poulter, Minister for Health and Maternity, said the government expected “each hospital to look closely at their results, so they can take action to make things better.”

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said the report “sets out yet more evidence of the real-life and disheartening effects on women of the shortage of midwives.” Figures suggest that the NHS is short of 4,800 midwives, although the government has assured the public that 5,000 are currently in training and would be working within the next three years.