By: Pramod Thomas
UK has formed a new maternity disparities taskforce to address disparities in maternity care for women from ethnic minority communities and those living in deprived areas, an official statement said.
Minister for patient safety and primary care Maria Caulfield has established the taskforce which will be co-chaired by chief midwifery officer Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE.
According to latest figures, stillbirth rate has reduced by over 25 per cent since 2010 and the neonatal mortality rate has reduced by 29 per cent, surpassing the ambition for a 20 per cent reduction by 2020.
But, there is an almost two-fold difference in mortality rates between women from Asian ethnic groups and white women, and they are also higher for black women. Studies have also found black women are 40 per cent more likely to experience a miscarriage than white women.
Birmingham is one of the most deprived areas and has the highest rates of neonatal mortality and stillbirths at 11.4 per 1,000. It also has a high number of low birth weight of all babies (9.7 per cent in 2018) and a high prematurity rate, the statement added.
“The maternity disparities taskforce will help level-up maternity care across the country, bringing together a wide range of experts to deliver real and ambitious change so we can improve care for all women, and I will be monitoring progress closely,” said minister Caulfield.
“As a nurse, I know how incredibly challenging the last two years have been and would like to thank all our dedicated maternity staff for their hard work and commitment throughout the pandemic.”
The taskforce seek to increase understanding of the drivers behind the disparities, examine the social factors linked to poorer health outcomes and tackle these issues.
The first meeting will be held on 8 March, with meetings held every two months to maintain and track progress.
NHS has produced equity & equality guidance to help local maternity systems address these disparities and the taskforce will work to improve cross-government working to address the social determinants of health for women and babies from ethnic minority groups and those living in the most deprived areas.
“The NHS’ ambition is to be the safest place in the world to be pregnant, give birth and transition into parenthood – all women who use our maternity services should receive the best care possible, which is why the NHS is committed to reducing health inequalities and our guidance sets out how the NHS will do this,” said Dunkley-Bent.
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, has said that the colour of someone’s skin should never dictate whether they have a positive or negative birth experience.
NHS is increasing the maternity workforce further with a £95 million recruitment drive to hire 1,200 more midwives and 100 obstetricians, the statement further said.