Since Mumsnet was launched in 2000, we have heard daily from parents who have had deeply upsetting and often traumatic experiences of maternity care in the UK, with lasting consequences for them, their families, and their babies.
In a survey we conducted earlier this year, a shocking 25 percent of parents rated the maternity care received as ‘poor’, a view that MSA is all too familiar with.
The scale of maternity problems in the UK are becoming more apparent. In November 2023, the BBC's analysis of CQC records revealed that two-thirds (67%) of maternity services were “not to be safe enough” having been assessed as either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ for safety, up from 55% in the previous autumn.
Our survey into maternity care earlier this year also found that:
15% of participants didn’t feel supported by healthcare professionals during the birth
44% of participants didn’t feel supported by healthcare professionals after the birth
25% of participants described their maternity care as poor
29% of participants reported they did not receive all of the medical care they needed
49% of participants claimed they did not receive enough information at least sometimes regarding their maternity care or birth planning
Maternity care needs to be firmly on the political agenda
Despite assurances by the Minister for Women's Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield, that the government was "working incredibly hard to improve maternity services, focusing on recruitment, training, and the retention of midwives"" the issues are much wider than simply ‘midwives’, and the government has demonstrated a lack of focus on causes of the problem, continually burying them beneath a sea of political shifts. With the prospect of an election looming in 2024, the MSA and Mumsnet want to make sure maternity care remains at the forefront of the national conversation.
Emily Barley, whose baby daughter, Beatrice, died during childbirth in May 2022, due to what she characterises as "fundamental failures in basic maternity care" at Barnsley Hospital, is actively involved in a new grassroots movement advocating for a public inquiry into maternity care practices in England.
She played a key role in establishing the Maternity Safety Alliance (MSA), which was launched in late October 2023 and has garnered support from over 650 individuals endorsing its cause. The Alliance contends that despite the implementation of various national initiatives and policies in response to investigations and reports, systemic issues persistently impact the well-being of women and infants. They assert that a significant amount of preventable harm continues to inflict devastation in situations that could and should be averted, emphasising the urgent need for comprehensive reform.
Mumsnet Founder and CEO Justine Roberts, said:
"We hear daily from Mumsnet users who have had deeply upsetting and often traumatic experiences of maternity care. It's clear that despite multiple inquiries at individual trusts the situation nationally is not improving - if anything, it's getting worse.
"An overarching inquiry is the only way to understand and address failings in all parts of the system - from the training that doctors and midwives receive, to culture and practice on labour wards, to how postnatal checks are conducted.
“We are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure this subject is firmly on the political agenda, and we're proud to support the brave parents at the Maternity Safety Alliance in their call for a statutory public inquiry."
Emily Barley, leading voice of the Maternity Safety Alliance said:
“Mumsnet is one of the most influential online forums for parents and a leading voice on issues affecting parents across the UK, and I'm absolutely thrilled that they're supporting our campaign for a national public inquiry.
“Recent data shows that perinatal deaths and maternal deaths are on the increase. Clinicians and NHS leaders are failing to make the changes we know are needed to save lives, putting their ‘normal birth’ ideology or organisational reputations above doing the right thing.
“Mumsnet has joined our campaign because they recognise that the only way to fix our broken maternity care system is through a national public inquiry. It's time now for the government to stop burying their heads in the sand and get on with ordering one. The health and lives of mums and babies depend on it."