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Region's maternity care among the country's best, say parents

Maternity services in the North East and North Cumbria are among the country's best – that's the verdict from thousands of new parents in a nationwide survey.

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) study highlighted several of the region's maternity units as providing the best experiences during pregnancy, childbirth and early weeks of life.

Only eight trusts in England were listed in the high performing 'better than expected' category – with three of these in the North East and North Cumbria.

Northumbria Healthcare, which provides services in Northumberland and North Tyneside, was highlighted for the positive way all staff introduced themselves, involved mums and partners in decisions and spoke in ways that people could easily understand. Families also praised staff for kindness, respect and their support with pain relief.

Also among the top performers was Gateshead Health, whose maternity services improved their scores in almost every area. Staff at the trust, which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, were praised for antenatal care, a supportive and respectful approach to labour and birth, and supporting new mums with their wellbeing.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust also appeared in the top group, with families pointing to pain relief, help for partners to be involved and stay as much as they want, and being able to ask questions and get answers in a way they can understand.

Samantha Allen, chief executive at North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: "Maternity services play a vital role in all our lives, and make a huge difference in giving family life the best possible start.

"It's fantastic to see so many of our teams recognised for their care, listening and support – but we are determined to keep improving services in the future."

Other trusts to receive praise include North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC), which operates the Cumberland Infirmary, West Cumberland Hospital and Penrith Hospital. Parents particularly pointed to the support they were offered with mental health, as well as the advice, kindness and understanding of staff.

Newcastle Hospitals was rated 'much better' than others at checking women's mental health after giving birth. The trust was also praised for providing help and advice to women who have given birth about feeding their baby and offering support and advice about a baby’s health and progress.

Jenna Wall, the ICB's director of nursing and midwifery, said: "This is a great achievement by maternity teams in the North East and North Cumbria. Right across the region, staff are committed to improving care further in the future.

"I have seen first-hand the way dedicated maternity and neonatal staff come together to share their skills and expertise, always looking to provide the best possible support to women and families across the whole region."

Staff teams get together through the Local Maternity and Neonatal System (LMNS) to share skills and expertise, learning from each other's strengths.

Rae Lowe, a mum of four from Whitley Bay, represents patients and families on the group. She said: "It's fantastic to see that our region is one of the best areas in the country to have a baby. We'll keep on listening to families and helping services to improve and provide the personalised care they want.

"Parents' voices make a real difference. For example, when mums told us that they wanted better access to water births at one local hospital, staff took immediate steps to provide more training and support so more parents can have the experience they prefer. By listening and improving we can offer the best possible start to family life."

Ken Bremner MBE, chair of the North East and North Cumbria provider collaborative, said: “All our trusts have scored highly in the feedback received about maternity care, and to have three trusts recognised amongst the best performing nationally, really is great news.  

“On behalf of all NHS providers in the region I would like to thank the thousands of highly committed NHS staff who work across our maternity services. These results are down to you.

“It is no secret that maternity services have been under the spotlight nationally across the whole NHS in recent years but as a region we are committed to providing the very highest quality of safe maternity care.

“We will continue to learn, improve and share best practice across our provider collaborative so that we collectively continue to provide the best possible maternity experience for people living in the North East and North Cumbria.”

The survey gathered responses from 25,515 women across 121 NHS trusts during 2023. None of the region's hospitals featured in the 'lower than expected' category. The full results can be seen at www.cqc.org.uk.

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