A new initiative announced by the Department of Health and Social Care will explore inequalities in maternity care and identify how the government can improve outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities.
The government has taken action to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries by 2025. The latest figures show the stillbirth rate has reduced by over 25% since 2010 and the neonatal mortality rate has reduced by 29%, surpassing the ambition for a 20% reduction by 2020. However, while progress has been made, disparities continue to persist – the reasons for which remain unclear.
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‘For too long disparities have persisted which mean women living in deprived areas or from ethnic monitory backgrounds are less likely to get the care they need, and worse, lose their child. We must do better to understand and address the causes of this,’ said Minister for Women’s Health Maria Caulfield.
‘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.’
Data shows there is an almost 2-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% more likely to experience a miscarriage than white women.
Birmingham is one of the most deprived areas of the country and has the highest rates of neonatal mortality and stillbirths at 11.4 per 1,000. Birmingham also has a high number of low birth weight of all babies (9.7% in 2018) and a high prematurity rate.
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‘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 equity and equality guidance sets out how the NHS will do this,’ said Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England.
‘We welcome the extra impetus and support that the new taskforce will provide in tackling these important issues and look forward to participating in it.’