THERE are inequalities for women from Black and minority ethnic groups in maternity services, a recent CQC report has found.

The report, published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), revealed that the improvement in the safety of maternity services is too slow, and in some cases, there was limited evidence of how services were ensuring that women from Black and minority ethnic groups had equal access to care.

The CQC visited nine maternity services where they had concerns between March 2021 and June 2021.

Although the independent regulator did not visit University Hospital Southampton (UHS), ensuring the above issues do not occur in Southampton is a priority for UHS Maternity Better Births Project Midwife, Katherine Barrio.

Continuity of carer is especially important in this situation, and ensures safe care based on “a relationship of mutual trust and respect in line with the woman’s decisions.”

Katherine said: “Continuity of carer is effectively ‘gold standard’ care and we are lucky to have this. This is being rolled out nationally and the ambition is to have it as the default mode of care.

“We are prioritising women from Black and minority ethnic groups to be cared for under this continuity of carer.

"The reason we are doing it is to give a better level of care for Black and Asian women.

“Locally our continuity of carer teams/case loading teams are called NEST teams (Needing Extra Support Teams) and work as three teams in East, West and Central Southampton City. They look after women from a BAME background and those who require extra support.

“I think as well as being able to give continuity of care to Black and Asian women, we also need to give care appropriately and accordingly.”

According to the NHS, women who receive midwifery-led continuity of carer are 16 per cent less likely to lose their baby and 19 per cent less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks.

The CQC report goes on to say that inspectors looked at the safety, teamwork and culture of services, as well as how they worked with their local Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVPs) to engage women in their local area.

Katherine has described University Hospital Southampton’s MVP as “really good” and will help improve maternity care for women.

She said: “We have an MVP chair in Southampton, Emma Batt, who acts as an independent advocate for women and works with the trust as well.

“She has done some evaluation with Black and Asian women in Southampton to see what comes out from that. That is really good for us to be able to base our care plans on.

“The local MVP needs to be reflective of the community/population they work for. It needs to grow and be more diverse.

“It’s about understanding women’s cultural perspectives to give appropriate care and deliver that care without any bias to it.

“In maternity we all need to give care that provides equity in healthcare, and this can firstly be done by being reflective practitioners and understanding our own biases, and using this to inform and improve the care we give our women.

“We also need education around the awareness of groups such as ‘Five x more’ who are all trying to use their voice to speak out on behalf of black and Asian women so their voice is heard, and we can better understand the steps we as healthcare practitioners can take to support this.”