UK maternity care is in a bad state – and Black women suffer the most | Letters

Recent reports from the CQC and MBRRACE-UK paint a shocking picture of deteriorating women’s health services. The government must act now, says Prof Geeta Nargund

The Care Quality Commission’s report on women’s experiences with maternity services paints a shocking picture of the deteriorating quality of care for women accessing maternity services (Alarm raised at decline in women’s maternity experiences in England, 11 January). However, the report fails to delve into the specific experiences of women from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic community, whom we know are being disproportionally disadvantaged. Recent data from MBRRACE-UK (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries Across the UK) shows a more than threefold difference in maternal mortality rates among women from Black ethnic backgrounds and an almost twofold difference among women from Asian ethnic backgrounds compared to white women.

This is simply unacceptable, and is symptomatic of the persistent gender health gap, as well as the result of a government that is dragging its feet and failing to take action to tackle the problems identified in its women’s health strategy.

If the government is serious about improving women’s health services and outcomes, it needs to deliver a clear, accountable and collaborative action plan – one that takes an intersectional and cross-sectional approach to eliminate the health inequalities currently experienced by women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. For there to be real, lasting change, the Department of Health and Social Care needs to engage with all stakeholders, including the relevant government departments, the NHS, the voluntary sector, the private sector and local communities.

The CQC and MBRRACE-UK reports should be a wake-up call for the government. The time for talk is over – we need urgent action now.
Prof Geeta Nargund
Co-founder, Ginsburg Women’s Health Board; senior NHS consultant

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