Feedback from service users is crucial for improvement in maternity care

Feedback from users of NHS maternity services has a key role to play in tracking quality of care and shaping service improvements, according to a new report published by The King’s Fund.

User feedback in maternity services highlights the importance of collecting and using feedback. It emphasises the key role of leaders in prioritising, communicating and acting on feedback as part of a culture of improvement.

The report, which is aimed primarily at maternity service providers, is based on research commissioned by the Department of Health to explore the benefits of locally developed ways of collecting and using feedback. It suggests that those seeking to strengthen their approach to user feedback should:

  • develop a clear view of the value and purpose of user feedback that staff throughout the organisation can support
  • ensure that feedback is not only collected but also acted on, so that staff and service users remain engaged in feedback activities
  • seek participation from maternity service users at all stages of the feedback process, from the development of collection tools to the design of service improvements
  • devote sufficient time and resources to the collection and analysis of user feedback, and translate this information into action.

Giving birth is the most common reason for admission to hospital in the UK, and for many women and their families pregnancy may be their first experience of ongoing contact with specialist health services.

In February 2016, the National Maternity Review commissioned by NHS England published the Better Births report, setting out proposals to make care safer and to give women greater control and more choices. NHS England also established a Maternity challenge fund to support the vision outlined in the report by promoting new and innovative approaches to using patient feedback in maternity services.

Lillie Wenzel, policy fellow at The King’s Fund, said: ‘User feedback is crucial for helping organisations to gain insight into the experience of those who use their services and, through that, to understand the quality of their services. As well as helping to shape service improvements, listening to and acting on user feedback encourages a sense of responsibility and pride among staff in the services they deliver.

‘Collecting and acting on feedback has a key role to play in implementing the vision set out in the National Maternity Review. We found many examples of good practice which we hope will inspire other maternity service providers to give this greater priority.’

Sarah-Jane Marsh, Chief Executive of Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Birmingham Women’s Hospital, and Chair of NHS England’s Maternity Transformation Programme Board, said: ‘True transformation of maternity services can only be done by listening to women and families, and understanding their experiences.  

‘This approach was threaded throughout the creation of Better Births, and everyone involved in its delivery is totally committed to continuing to involve women and families every step of the way.  

‘I absolutely support this report and recommend that everyone involved in maternity services embraces it, and uses the passion and energy of women to make their local services the very best they can be.'

Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Adviser at NCT (the National Childbirth Trust), said: ‘We are in strong agreement with the conclusions of this useful report on the importance of feedback from service users in maternity care.

'As a charity for parents, it’s particularly welcome to hear of the success of mixed-method approaches, of inclusion of parents in co-design of services, of Maternity Services Liaison Committees ensuring that feedback was pro-actively sought from vulnerable women and people from minority ethnic groups, and of the need to ‘close the feedback loop’ and demonstrate that change has happened.’

Notes to editors: 

The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact The King’s Fund Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2585 (if calling out of hours, please ring 07584 146035).