New research commissioned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found that more women must be made aware of their right to choose their birth hospital. A recent survey showed that 40% of women either weren’t aware, or didn’t feel they had a choice about where they gave birth.
And that’s really sad.
I think it’s so often just assumed that you will give birth in the hospital that is linked to your midwife clinic or GP surgery – and that’s fine if that’s what YOU want. But if that’s not what you want, then you can speak out. 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. Pregnancy is a really exciting time, but it can also leave you feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed and daunted at the responsibility. It’s essential that pregnant women are fully informed about their options around home birth, birthing centre birth or hospital birth, and the risks and benefits to them as an individual.
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 5 key questions: Is the service safe? Is it effective? Are the staff caring, responsive to people’s needs, and is the service well led? Each hospital is then given a rating of: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate. Research found that of those who did use the inspection reports 95% found them helpful in informing their birth choice decision.
And that’s what’s important isn’t it? CHOICE. Ultimately the decision lies with the pregnant woman and her family, not with us as healthcare providers. Our role is to support them in that decision, and ensure they have the best experience possible.
If you are an expectant parent and you have not yet made a birth plan, this is something that is really important. It doesn’t have to be pages long, it doesn’t have to cover every single possible eventuality – it needs to list the things that are most important to you, the things that you think will make your birthing experience what you want it to be. There is some great advice about birth plans available, and you can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #YourBirthPlan. It’s so important that your voice is heard.
For those of you who have recently given birth, the CQC would love to hear your maternity care experiences. These not only help shape future care for others, it could be useful for you too, if you go on to have another baby! As a health professional, this feedback is incredibly helpful too – we can see what we are doing that works, and build on that, as well as seeing where we could improve care. Because at the end of the day, all we want is for you to have a good experience, and for you to feel that you were cared for. You and your baby are what matter the most.