Widespread variations in standards of maternity care a cause for concern, says The King's Fund

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Responding to the Healthcare Commission's national review of maternity services in England, The King's Fund Acting Director of Policy, Anna Dixon, said:

'The Healthcare Commission's wide-ranging review shows that in a number of areas care is falling short of the standards women should expect. Many maternity units up and down the country are not able to demonstrate that they are fully meeting national clinical standards of care. There is significant room for improvement and there needs to be better data on performance.

'While medical research has delivered many advances in health care for mothers and babies in recent years, today’s report highlights widespread variations in performance – women in all parts of the country should receive high quality and safe care.

'Even in those trusts identified as the worst performing, the Healthcare Commission has confirmed that standards of care are not unsafe. But their findings suggest that maternity units could do better. On the majority of clinical indicators fewer than one in eight trusts scored the highest achievable score of five. Trusts need to understand and rise to the challenges ahead and focus on improving the quality and safety of the services they provide to women and their babies. Maternity units may need extra resources and support to make this happen.

'The recommendations of previous reports and national guidance have not always been implemented by trusts or followed by front-line professionals. Our inquiry into the safety of maternity services will aim to uncover the reasons behind this and identify practical ways in which maternity services can ensure they deliver safe, high quality care to women and their babies.'

Find out more about the maternity services inquiry

Notes to editors

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King’s Fund is conducting a year-long investigation into the safety of maternity services in England. Our inquiry is looking at the safety record of maternity services, highlighting where progress has been made as well as areas of concern. There have been a number of recent high-profile reports on quality and safety in maternity services and the inquiry is seeking to establish the extent to which their recommendations have been implemented and to find out why they have not been followed through in some cases. Baroness Onora O'Neill, a senior figure in medical ethics and President of the British Academy, is chairing the inquiry and is working with a panel of experts. The final report is expected in February 2008.
  3. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.