New research commissioned by England’s health and care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that more women must be made aware of their right to choose their birth hospital.
The research, which surveyed over 1,000 women who had given birth in England in the last three years, found that 40% either weren’t aware or didn’t feel they had a choice about their birth hospital.
Of those who choose their hospital 53% stated this was a ‘very important’ decision, however 57% spent less than an hour choosing theirs, suggesting a lack of awareness about the amount of information that is available to help make an informed choice.
The CQC is encouraging all expectant parents to understand their right to choose where to give birth and to use CQC inspection reports in order to help make an informed, considered decision.
Heidi Smoult, Deputy Chief Inspector at the Care Quality Commission, explains: “Pregnancy is a very exciting time but it can also be daunting and many women can feel at their most vulnerable. Women have the option to have a hospital, birthing centre or home birth.
It is vital that all women know they have a choice over where they give birth. It’s a big decision and while advice from family and friends can be useful, it’s important that expectant parents know there’s free independent information available to help them.
Our inspection reports provide detailed scrutiny of all aspects of maternity care – we urge all prospective parents to do their research to help ensure they have the best possible birth experience.”
The CQC found the top influencing factors effecting where women choose to give birth were the hospital being close to home (65%), followed by hospital cleanliness and safety (55%), a good reputation (39%) and caring staff (36%). CQC inspection reports include detailed information asking these key questions and the research found that of those who did use the inspection reports 95% found them helpful in informing their birth choice decision.
The research also found a third (34%) of mums spent less than an hour choosing the type of birth they want and making a birth plan, and 15% didn’t do this at all.
As part of the campaign the CQC also wants new parents to share their experiences of maternity services. Heidi continues: “We really want to hear about women’s real-life experiences as this information supports our monitoring, inspecting and rating of services and helps us provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive picture of the current quality of maternity care being provided at a local level across the country. We urge new parents to help other parents by sharing their experiences with us.”
The CQC is responsible for inspecting all hospitals, including private hospitals, GP practice, dentists, care homes and home care in England. Its maternity service inspections include all services for women that relate to pregnancy, including ante and post-natal services, labour wards, birth centres or units and theatres providing obstetric related surgery.
Each inspection answers five key questions: Is the service safe? Is it effective? Are the staff caring and responsive to people’s needs and is the service well led?
For more information about the CQC’s campaign and to find out how to share your experiences please visit www.cqc.org.uk/yourbirthplan