CQC report ‘doesn’t pull any punches’ say the RCM

on 20 October 2023 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Government NHS Maternal Mental health

The latest ‘State of care ‘report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) paints a worrying picture of the state of maternity services across the UK says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The 2022/2023 report is the CQC’s annual assessment of the state of health and adult social care in England and assesses the quality of care patients received over the past year. It found that although technology has the potential to bring across huge improvements, currently there remains serious and ongoing concerns about the care that patients receive including in maternity units.

The treatment of staff and their morale was also highlighted as a major cause for concern. Staff fed back to the CQC that they felt overworked, exhausted and only a quarter of staff were satisfied with their pay.  

Sadly none of this is new says the RCM’s Chief Executive, Gill Walton:

“This report doesn’t pull any punches and highlights in stark detail the warnings that we have been sounding over and over again. It paints a sadly familiar picture. There are challenges supporting midwifery leaders, poor communication with women and their families and many unfilled vacancies. This is on top of long waiting times, anxious patients and demoralised staff. At the heart of the problem are staff shortages and the struggle to recruit and retain staff. This is impacting on patient care. We recently estimated that the shortfall of midwives in England is around 2500. This can’t be allowed to continue.

“Despite numerous warnings, and the raft of policy initiatives and programmes in recent years, maternity care ratings are getting worse. This is not a reflection of the people that work in maternity services, far from it. They are dedicated, compassionate and working long hours, including unpaid overtime to support women and their families. Instead the findings expose the legacy of a continued lack of investment in maternity services. More must be done urgently to retain staff and train new ones to ease the burden on overworked midwives and maternity support workers. All the evidence shows that babies that thrive during pregnancy have a better start in life – and so much of that is dependent on good maternity care. If we work together and the Government invests the funds now then mothers and their families will reap the rewards in the future.”

The key findings of the report are:

  • There are continued staffing pressures including many services with unfilled vacancies and clear issues with staff morale.
  • Challenges supporting midwifery leaders in maternity services.
  • Instances of poor communication with women and their families.
  • There are ongoing concerns with the quality of care across some services but there is potential from technology to bring huge improvements in maternity services.
  • There are continued concerns that some people are more likely to face inequalities in access and experience when using maternity services.
  • Staff regularly state they are overworked, exhausted and stressed. Cost of living pressures are adding further challenge to the recruitment and retention of staff.

The full report can be found here.