Maternity care at almost three-quarters of NHS groups across the country needs to improve, new figures have shown.
In total, 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were rated, of which 144 “need improvement,” with 11 registering the “greatest need for improvement,” according NHS England.
Only one NHS group, West Kent, was ranked as “top performing” with 53 classed as “performing well”.
The figures, released on Thursday 27 October 2016, have been hailed as a “positive step” for transparency.
“It has never been safer to give birth in this country and the vast majority of women report a good experience, but there is more that we can do,” said Dr Matthew Jolly, from NHS England.
“The ratings published will help local areas identify where they are doing well and importantly where improvements can be made – helping to ensure women and their families have a good experience wherever they live.”
Maternity care was assessed in four areas to give a “broad representation” of the service: stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates, maternal smoking rate at delivery, experience and choice.
The data tables give figures on annual number of births, elective caesareans and emergency caesareans as well as the number of breastfeeding initiations.
People are able to search hospitals in their local area to see what rating they received.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said she welcomed the “openness and transparency in publishing these ratings,” but was “concerned about the number of services requiring improvement”.
“This is a positive step and one that could help women to be informed about the quality of services where they live and empower them to make more informed decisions about their care,” she said.
“Hopefully these ratings will be used to help CCGs learn from the best and to improve quality where that is shown to be needed.”`
Elizabeth Duff, from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said: “We’re pleased to see NHS England is delivering on its commitment to be more transparent about CCGs’ performances and this is a positive step forward.
“These figures starkly highlight areas where improvement is needed.
“Parents shouldn’t use these figures alone to decide where to have a baby. They are baseline ratings which don’t take into account every aspect of care.”
NHS England has said it will offer a “comprehensive support package” to help CCGs in need of improvement.