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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Better maternity care is needed

10th July 2008

Alice Thomson offers a personal perspective on the deterioration of maternity services in Britain.


Maternity care in Britain is getting worse. Spending on maternity services may have risen by a quarter in real terms in the last decade but Britain’s maternal death rate is one of the highest in Europe, at 7.3 per 100,000 births compared with the average of 6.8.

Meanwhile, satisfaction rates among women entering hospital to give birth, has also plummeted.

The Healthcare Commission highlighted the state of maternal care in a study that showed two thirds of trusts still offer no choice of how or where to give birth.

There may be extra money, but it has been directed at buildings. There are not enough midwives and some are now in charge of a quarter more births than they were in 2001.

When I gave birth to my first child in 2000, there was a midwife there to teach mothers how to feed their babies and change nappies.

Two years later, when the hospital had moved to a new site, the experience was harrowing with midwives following “directives rather than their intuition.”

For my fourth birth, the hospital was so overstretched I was sent home two hours after giving birth.

Lord Darzi advocates larger units but within them the service will become “more impersonal and daunting” and with a shortage of 5,000 midwives, there isn’t the money for one-to-one care.

But women don’t need larger units; they want choice of care, whether that is a smaller unit, at home, or in a hospital with a consultant – and with a “friendly face” close by.

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