Still work to do but encouraging improvements in maternity services say RCM

on 09 February 2024

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has welcomed the recognition by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of improvements across the board in women’s experience in maternity care. The CQC’s annual maternity survey, published today, also acknowledges the huge pressures midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) are facing.

A survey of over 25,000 women and their families found that they were much more positive about the care they received from midwives than in 2022. Mothers report feeling more informed and better cared for, while partners felt more included. Crucially, there has been a big improvement in the mental health care that women and their families receive. The RCM acknowledges that, while the improvements are welcome, there is still more work to do.

The RCM’s Chief Executive, Gill Walton, said:

“Putting women at the heart of maternity care may sound obvious, but it may not always be their experience. We are pleased to see things are moving in the right direction, and that is testament to the dedication and hard work of midwives and MSWs. In particular, the improvement in the mental health support women get during pregnancy, especially around the information they receive, is welcome. As we highlighted in our perinatal mental health roadmap published last year, mental ill-health ranks with physical factors as one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in the UK, so this is a positive step.

“Of course, there are also areas that need accelerated improvement. It is worrying to read that a quarter of those surveyed said they weren’t able to get the help they needed during labour and birth. We know that maternity services up and down the country are struggling with staffing levels, and sadly this is a stark reminder of what can happen when you have too few staff. While we welcome the commitments made in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we need to see action, particularly around the retention of skilled, experienced staff.”

The RCM is working with the Government and NHS England to highlight areas of good practice around staff recruitment so that these can be replicated in other Trusts.



The key findings of the survey are:

  • 85% said they were given appropriate advice and support when they contacted a midwife or the hospital when in early labour (82% in 2022).
  • 83% said that midwives providing antenatal care ‘always’ listened to them (an increase from 80% in 2022).
  • Nearly 9 in 10 women felt they were given enough support for their mental health throughout pregnancy (up from 85% in 2022).
  • A quarter of those surveyed said they were left alone at some point during the birth of their baby at– a higher proportion than those who said this in 2018 (23%)
  • 10% said they were not able to get help at all while giving birth.
  • More than 1 in 4 of those surveyed felt they were not always treated with kindness or understanding while in hospital after giving birth.

The full results of the survey can be found here.