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NHS to tackle ‘unacceptable’ ethnic inequalities in maternity care, government says

A new taskforce has been established to tackle disparities in maternity care experienced by women from ethnically diverse communities and those living in deprived areas.

Black women are 40% more likely to have a miscarriage than white women, and deprived areas can have higher rates of stillbirths, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has revealed. 

There is an almost two-fold difference in death rates between women from Asian ethnic groups and white women, while black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth.

Birmingham, one of the most deprived areas of the country, has the greatest proportion of stillbirths – about 1.1% – and of mothers dying within 28 days of giving birth. The city also has a high rate of premature births and a high number of babies born with a low weight – almost 10% in 2018.

The DHSC said the reasons for disparities like these are still unclear and it would try to identify barriers faced.

woman holding her prenant tummy during daytime

The Royal College of Midwives pointed out that many migrant women put off seeking care because they cannot pay for it and called on the government to scrap the charges.

Maria Caulfield, the minister for women’s health, said: ‘For too long disparities have persisted which mean women living in 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 will aim to improve personalised care and support plans for mothers, address how wider societal issues impact maternal health and increase access to maternity care for all women, with targeted support for vulnerable groups.

The group will also seek to improve education of pre-conception health when trying to conceive – like taking supplements before pregnancy and maintaining a healthy weight – and develop a digital framework that can help women make decisions about their care.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: ‘We strongly welcome this new Maternity Disparities Taskforce which will aim to tackle the unacceptable inequalities that exist for women from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds when it comes to maternity outcomes.

‘The colour of someone’s skin should never dictate whether they have a positive or negative birth experience.’

The taskforce will meet every two months to bring together experts from across the health service, mothers, government and the voluntary sector, starting on 8 March.

In related news, there has been a more than 40% decrease in breast cancer screenings this year.

Photo by freestocks

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