Investment needed to support safer maternity care says RCM

on 14 January 2021 NHS Staff Maternity Services BAME Maternity Safety MBRRACE Safety Maternal Death Staffing Levels Race matters

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is calling for a greater focus on improving women’s health, reducing inequalities, and ensuring existing care guidance is followed.

The call comes following the publication of a report from MBRRACE-UK covering the years 2016-18, which says that, while maternity care in the UK is very safe, there are issues that need to be addressed. These include gaps between health and social care, the continuing issue of social inequalities and areas of more specialist care that need improvement, such as supporting pregnant women with epilepsy and mental health and heart problems.

Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Maternity staff are doing an incredible job caring for women, babies and their families, making our maternity services among the safest in the world.  However, we must keep striving to improve and target those areas that need urgent action, such as better epilepsy care, support for those experiencing poor mental health and really focusing on the care women from black and Asian ethnic backgrounds receive. This requires investment in staffing, including more and better training, and resources to back up those efforts.”

The report said that there was a ‘statistically non-significant increase’ in the overall UK maternal death rate, stressing a need to focus on implementing its recommendations and existing guidelines to reduce deaths. It identified key factors leading to maternal deaths and highlighted the disproportionate numbers of deaths to women from black and Asian ethnic backgrounds.

Gill Walton added, “Improving the overall health of women and reducing inequalities continue to be at the heart of many of the challenges for positive outcomes and experiences in maternity. Midwives and maternity support workers undoubtedly have a role to play in this, but it requires a system-wide approach that recognises the value that maternity services offer.”

The RCM is working with other organisations, including the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and pregnancy charity Tommy’s, to improve outcomes for women, particularly those at risk of complications during pregnancy or birth. This includes work to understand the barriers to care and the disparity in experience and outcomes for black and Asian women, as part of its Race Matters initiative. The College continues to address the need for better support for mental health and well-being and is launching updated guidance next week for maternity staff to support emotional wellbeing in pregnant and postnatal women.


Notes to editors

The MBRRACE-UK report can be read at

For more information on the RCM’s Race Matters campaign see

For more information on the RCM’s leadership work see

For information on the launch of the Emotional Wellbeing publication see

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The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at