New NHS taskforce established to tackle disparities in maternity care in England

on 25 February 2022

A Maternity Disparities Taskforce has been established to explore disparities in maternity care and to address poor outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities and those living in deprived areas of England.

The taskforce has been created by the Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield, and co-chaired by Chief Midwifery Officer, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE. The aim of the taskforce is to gain a better understanding for the reasons for poor outcomes in maternity care and to address them.

Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield, said: “For too long disparities have persisted which means women living deprived areas or from ethnic minority 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.

“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.”

The taskforce has been established at a time when the Government aims to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries by 2025. Current data show the stillbirth rate has reduced by over 25% since 2010, passing the ambition of a 20% reduction in 2020.

It also shows almost a 2-fold difference in mortality rates between women from Asian ethnic groups and white women. Studies have also shown black women are 40% times more likely to experience miscarriage than white women.

Data shows 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 in England.

Chief Midwifery Officer for England, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE, said: “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.”

The equity and equality guidance will help local maternity services to address disparities and the taskforce will work to improve cross-government working to address the social detriments of women and babies from ethnic minority groups and those living in deprived areas.

The government has also invested £5 million in the Brain Injury Reduction Programme to reduce the rate of brain injuries in babies occurring during or soon after birth.

£95 million is also being invested to recruit 1,200 more midwives and 100 obstetricians.