Mums-to-be asked for views on maternity services

By Caroline O'Doherty
Senior Reporter

They are ostensibly designed for women, are used by the majority of women and are predominantly run by women - now at last the State is to ask women what they think of the country's maternity services.

From early next year, all new mothers are to be invited to take part in a major survey jointly planned by the HSE, Department of Health and HIQA, the health service standards authority.

But while the plan is welcomed by maternity services campaigners, they also point out that there have already been numerous surveys with the results largely falling on deaf ears.

AIMS, the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services, said its own survey of 2,832 women in 2014 and a survey of 1,324 women by the Institute of Public Health for the Department of Health in 2015 both produced the same results, while the National Maternity Strategy also sought input from service users in 2015.

"Four years later we are still waiting for any of the key areas identified in this survey to be funded and acted upon," said AIMS chairwoman, Krysia Lynch.

Service users know exactly where the pitfalls of maternity care lie, they know exactly where they have been supported and where they have been failed.

However, unless this information is acted upon we remain on a merry-go-round of service users reporting the same experiences over and over again and nothing being done until another survey is commissioned or a tragedy occurs.

Ms Lynch said the key findings of previous surveys were that women felt a lack of dignity, consent, choice and compassion in the services they received.

The general consensus was that the clinical care they received was excellent but they felt that the variety of services was poor, access was unequal across the country and there was little support for breastfeeding.

"Any future survey is probably going to reveal the exact same issues," she said. "Before service users give of their time in completing yet another survey, they need an assurance that after they share their experiences those issues raised will be acted upon."

The new survey will be an extension of the existing National Patient Experience Survey which has gathered the views of 26,000 patients over the past two years.

Phelim Quinn of HIQA said the results show improvements in hospital care from 2017 to 2018: "The findings showed that the health service is listening and responding to patients."

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "I am absolutely committed to making sure that the patient experience is listened to."

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