The latest report (2020-22) into maternal, newborn and infant healthcare quality commissioned by NHS England and local bodies depressingly indicates that there has been no improvement in maternal and infant mortality figures including stillbirths since the previous report for 2019-21. In fact, since the 2017-19 report, the figures have got worse.
Regularly published MBRRACE reports probably give the clearest oversight of the state of NHS maternity and neonatal care across the UK and impact government decisions on funding.
What is also clear from this latest report is that the appalling disparity in the number of deaths experienced by Black and Asian women giving birth has also not improved since the previous report, despite, among others, the hard-hitting Five X More campaign that was a direct result of the 2018 MBRRACE report. This showed that Black women in the UK are five times more likely to die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth than White women, and Asian woman face a twofold risk.
In April 2023, the parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee report called for faster progress in tackling the 'appalling' higher death rates for Black women and those from poorer areas in childbirth and highlighted that racism played a key role in creating health disparities.
The team here who specialise in maternal and birth injury claims also know from first-hand experience that many Asian clients pursuing maternity negligence claims clearly state that they were not listened to or were poorly treated because of what they perceived as inherent racism from medical staff.
Since the MBRRACE-UK 2018 report stating maternity care disparity experienced by Black and Asian women, there was a flurry of headlines, documentaries, task forces and stakeholder groups investigating and discussing why the inequality exists and has gone on for so long.
Small moves with potential impact include a review of the longstanding clinical assessment of babies immediately after birth after the NHS Race and Health Observatory raised concerns that the focus on skin colour (with descriptions of pink for health and blue for problematic) is misleading.
But even despite Government promises in March 2021 to boost all maternity services with an extra £95.9m year on year immediately following the first Ockenden Report into catastrophic failings at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and a further £127m announced in March 2022, the truth appears to be that, thus far, very little has changed.
A summary of the latest MBRRACE report 2020-2022 is that:
- Compared to 2017-19, there was a statistically significant increase in the overall maternal death rate in the UK in 2020-22. Statistically insignificant change since the 2019-21.
- Thrombosis and thromboembolism were the leading cause of maternal death in the UK in 2020-22 during or up to six weeks after the end of pregnancy.
- There remains an almost three-fold difference in maternal mortality rates among women from Black ethnic backgrounds compared to White women. The maternal mortality rate for Black women has decreased from 2019-21 but not statistically significantly so.
- As in 2019-21 there remains an almost two-fold difference among women from Asian ethnic backgrounds compared to White women.
- Women living in the most deprived areas have a maternal mortality rate more than twice as high as women living in the least deprived areas. This disparity is statistically unchanged from 2019-2021.
On February 8th, Fieldfisher will host a conference aimed primarily at maternity staff and practitioners to discuss better care and support for people suffering baby loss. More information to follow.
Sign up to our email digest