Regulator survey concludes that NHS maternity services are “just not good enough.”

12 December 2013

Regulator survey concludes that NHS maternity services are “just not good enough.”

A survey looking into women’s experiences of NHS maternity care in England conducted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that maternity services are ‘just not good enough’ with too many women experiencing ‘truly shocking’ instances of care on maternity wards before, during and after giving birth.

The CQC last investigated the issue in 2010, and has now found a rise of 22% relating to the number of women left alone during their labour or birth; the figure now standing at one in four women having experienced this.

Specifically, of those who were consulted as part of the survey about one in four women also felt concerns during labour and birth were not taken seriously, that they did not receive pain relief quickly enough or in the appropriate measure to help their pain symptoms subside. Of those who felt their concerns were not taken seriously, 19% of the 23,000 participants surveyed during February at an NHS hospital, midwife-led unit or birth centre as well as at home, felt their voiced concerns were not listened to or acted upon.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the CQC's chief inspector of hospitals concluded that while steps had been taken since 2010 to improve maternity care, too many women still were not getting the care they should, he added. He said:

"In too many cases, the quality of care delivered is just not good enough. Women and their partners are being left alone when it worries them, toilets and wards are described as unclean, and some women are not given the pain relief they had expected or planned to use in their birth plan"

"Feedback in the comments shows at times a truly shocking picture of experiences that should be the most joyous time in a woman's life, not the most frightening", Richards added.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said the report contained too many "worrying findings" and pointed out the lack of staffing in maternity wards as being indicative of the underlying problem.

"It is sad to see that in three years the NHS has not improved in terms of women seeing the same midwife during their care, which often means women have to repeat their histories over and over again," said Warwick.

"This third survey shows that the NHS continues to fail too many women. It sets out yet more evidence of the real-life and disheartening effects on women of the shortage of midwives. How many more flashing red lights do we need? I am deeply disappointed about the high proportion of women who were left alone and worry about this during early labour. It is sad, too, that vital postnatal care is a focus for women's criticisms. We urgently need to change these things."

If you have experienced any form of medical mistreatment at any of the above mentioned trusts, or want to better understand exactly what your patient rights are, we are pleased to offer advice and support to you. Specialists at have wide experience of providing advice and support across a number of areas relating to potential medical mistreatment, such as misdiagnosis and delay and surgery errors, for example.