THE BLOG

Women Rate the Quality of NHS Maternity Care

30/01/2014 11:44 GMT | Updated 01/04/2014 10:59 BST

On any given day around 1,800 babies are born in England. Pregnancy and childbirth can offer the single best opportunity for our NHS to make a positive difference to the lives of so many women, their partners, and their families. Today, for the first time, we will be able to see how women rate the quality of their care, throughout every stage of their pregnancy.

For the last three months, women up and down the country have been taking part in the Government's new and simple Friends and Family Test which gives anonymous feedback about whether or not women would recommend their care to those closest to them.

In order to give each and every child the very best start in life, the Government has increased the number of midwives by 1500, is training a record 5000 more and investing £35million directly into maternity wards and birthing units to improve birthing environments, from en suite bath rooms to birthing pools.

But no matter how much we invest in maternity services, and extra midwives, and no matter how dedicated to delivering high quality maternity care our doctors and midwives are, there are always things we can do better. Just as importantly, there are many examples of excellent care and good practice that can be celebrated and shared more widely across our NHS.

Our new maternity test maps every part of a woman's pregnancy experience, from antenatal care, through labour and birth, as well as postnatal care on the wards and in the community. It gives women the opportunity to rate and comment on the quality of care they receive from every part of the maternity service.

The test can be done in a variety of ways, from online to paper. The important thing is that we hear what mums have to say and use that information to make the pregnancy and birthing experience as good as it possibly can be.

We also know from elsewhere in our NHS that the Friends and Family Test really works.

Since our Prime Minister David Cameron introduced it last year for hospital patients, we have had instant feedback from over 1.3million people - and there is clear evidence our NHS is responding well. The Friends and Family Test often results in simple changes, which can make a big difference to patients and their experience of care as we can see in hospitals that have been benefiting from this feedback since last April.

For example, Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has made sure patients with Parkinson's Disease get their medication on time, by using an alarm clock to remind staff when medicine needs to be taken. Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust installed full-length mirrors in their bathrooms for the benefit of people in wheelchairs after a patient with a wheelchair told them the mirrors were too high.

As a result of the Friends and Family Test, pregnant women will now be able to compare results of different maternity services on NHS Choices, so it can help to inform them where they would like to be cared for throughout their pregnancy.

Our NHS can now better engage with every woman throughout their pregnancy care. The more we know about each of the 1800 births happening today, the better it will be for the babies born tomorrow and for their families.

It is great to see that so many women would send a friend or relative to the organisation who helped them during their pregnancy and the birth of their child. Every week I have the privilege of working alongside many highly skilled and dedicated midwives, maternity support workers and obstetric doctors. The Friends and Family Test will help us to deliver even better care and to give every new baby the very best start in life.