Statement in response to publication of the Birth Trauma Inquiry report, Listen to Mums: Ending the Postcode Lottery on Perinatal Care

Responding to the Birth Trauma Inquiry report, Professor Habib Naqvi, chief executive, NHS Race and Health Observatory, said:

The findings of the Birth Trauma Inquiry report, published today, are unacceptable. We are deeply concerned about the loss of life and traumatic childbirth experiences happening too often, to too many women, and which are avoidable.

It is disheartening to hear the number of harrowing experiences faced by mothers whose concerns about their babies were dismissed. It is right that racial and ethnic disparities have been given due consideration in this important inquiry. It is well-documented that ethnic minority women, including Black and Asian mothers, are significantly and disproportionately affected by poor birth experiences and outcomes, including birth trauma. Addressing these disparities is paramount to achieving equitable maternal healthcare for all individuals. Good care for pregnant women should be the norm.

We agree with the recommendation for the establishment of a maternity commissioner who reports directly to the government, as well as the call for a single strategy document that incorporates ethnic health inequalities within its scope. The NHS Race and Health Observatory has developed key anti-racism principles that would be of critical importance to such a strategy. These principles emphasise the importance of naming racism, and defining it, to effectively tackle its root causes.

Whilst we acknowledge that postcode and geography will tell us where these inequalities exist, we also know that we must examine the ‘causes of the causes’ of these experiences to tackle why they exist. We therefore commend the inclusion of naming racism within the report, as a crucial first step in acknowledging and addressing systemic inequities within healthcare.

Central to our approach is to ensure that racially minoritised individuals are not only heard in reports and reviews but actively involved in the development and evaluation of interventions. Any maternity strategy must prioritise the evaluation of policies and procedures to identify and address inherent disparities in access and outcomes.

The Observatory is currently engaged in various projects, including initiatives focused on effective and respectful communication in maternal healthcare, taking an anti-racism approach to improvement, and focusing on perinatal mental health – which align closely to the themes highlighted in the inquiry.

We are committed to working collaboratively with stakeholders across the healthcare sector to implement evidence-based strategies that address the root causes of birth trauma and promote positive birth experiences for all.