NCT response: Care Quality Commission (CQC) Survey

Released on: 20 July 2011

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) survey of women’s experiences of maternity services in 2010 is published today. Over 25,000 new mothers responded to the survey, between April 2010 and August 2010, from all 144 NHS trusts in England that provide maternity services.

Key weakness


  • More than 1 in 5 women (22%) were left alone and worried at some time during labour.


  • Despite clear guidance from NICE on the value of mobility and freedom of movement, the number of women giving birth in stirrups, without clinical need, has gone up to nearly 1 in 6 (16%).


  • Improvements are still needed in postnatal care – just over a fifth (21%) said that they would like to see a midwife more often and a similar percentage said they were not given enough information about emotional changes, echoing concerns raised in NCT's postnatal care survey.


  • Increased numbers of women are leaving hospital without the support they need to feed and care for their babies.


Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive, NCT, said;


“What is clear from this survey is that women’s experiences are not improving overall. Too few women are being offered choice, women are still being left alone in labour and more information and support is needed. Practice is varied and the proposal for a national NHS commissioning board will help to reduce variation. However, it is good to see improvements in areas where NCT has lobbied for better practice


“It is shocking to see one in six women give birth lying on their backs with legs in stirrups – it seems we have gone back in time to the ‘production line’ approach where women are all treated the same and active birth is not promoted despite the known benefits.


Postnatal care is also an area criticised by women, echoing NCT’s own recent report, ‘Left to your own devices’, which found many women feeling helpless and isolated by the care they received in hospital and community. There is also huge variation between trusts: emergency caesarean rates range from 8-28%, straightforward births from 51-76%. In one trust, over 20% of women reported they were not able to move around in labour to get comfortable.


The good news is that increased numbers of women felt they were being treated with kindness and understanding during the care they received in hospital after the birth of their baby. There were also commendable increases in involvement in decision-making and women’s partners being made welcome.


We now need to see the Government commit to the policy approach it has set out in its Liberating the NHS papers, building on improvements in maternity care so it is consistent and evidence-based across the country, with an increased focus on postnatal services.”