For some time now, I have been growing increasingly concerned about NHS maternity services. In March, the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust’s maternity report was published and this report is truly horrifying to read. I want to pay my deepest condolences to all the parents who lost their babies and those who were injured due to the unacceptable and avoidable failings. This is absolutely devastating and must never happen again.   When the report was published, I immediately wrote to our local North Middlesex University Hospital and Whittington Hospital to ask about lessons learnt for maternity services from the report’s findings. I have also held calls with Whittington Hospital to raise this issue and more widely, the ongoing impact of the pandemic on maternity wards.

I understand that other families are also reporting similar allegations and experiences and calling for a wider, national inquiry into NHS maternity services. I believe these must be properly investigated and justice given to all victims and their families.

After more than a decade of austerity cuts to the NHS, coupled with the pandemic, we are witnessing severe staff shortages and worsening quality of service and dangerous conditions for mothers and their new-born babies and NHS staff. This is completely unacceptable and I am shocked that the Government has not prioritised tackling this deeply troubling issue.  I have raised concerns about the scale of the crisis in writing directly with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Last summer, I held an online discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on women’s health services. Particular attention was paid to the poor outcomes suffered by black women and their babies as a result of the disproportionate levels of service they receive in the delivery of perinatal care. Following the meeting, I wrote to the Minister of State for Patient Safety to raise issues of healthcare disparity for black and Asian women.

I have also submitted the following Written Parliamentary Questions on this issue:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will provide additional support to NHS maternity wards in England during winter 2021-22. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to ensure pregnant women are (a) in their last trimester and (b) in other stages of pregnancy are prioritised for covid-19 vaccinations. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to tackle stillborn and neonatal deaths for babies from (a) minority ethnic and (b) other backgrounds. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will increase funding for the NHS to tackle stillbirth and neonatal deaths. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to improve care for black women in the NHS. Response here

As well as safety concerns for mothers and babies, I believe that the underfunding of the NHS is worsening people’s trust and perception of the NHS. According to the NatCen’s 2021 British Social Attitudes,  overall satisfaction with the NHS fell to 36% – an unprecedented 17 percentage point decrease on 2020. This is the lowest level of satisfaction recorded since 1997, when satisfaction fell to 34%. More people (41%) were dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied. My constituents routinely tell me about how difficult it is to book appointments with the GP and their frustration with long NHS waiting times. The Tories have had 12 years to sort out this chaos but have failed each time.

I would like to encourage my constituents to listen to this Women’s Hour episode about midwives under pressure, as I think it encapsulates the issue well. I understand GPs, doctors and nurses are all experiencing impossible workloads and difficult work environments. After the challenges of the pandemic, the Government awarded NHS staff a disgraceful 1% pay rise – given inflation levels, this is a real-times pay cut for our essential workers. I urge Ministers to ensure that maternity services are properly funded and staffed as part of a wider strategy to improve safety across the board. We must address health inequalities in maternity care and ensure all expectant mothers and their families receive the care and support they expect and deserve.

This is an issue I will continue to raise in Parliament, so please do get in touch if you would like to share your views.

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