A new national survey suggests that maternity care for women in North Devon is among the best in the country.
New mothers who gave birth in February this year were asked to fill in questionnaires for the Healthcare Commission, the NHS watchdog body.
Northern Devon Healthcare, which runs North Devon District Hospital and local community services, was one of 39 NHS trusts across the country to take part. Of 200 new mums in North Devon, 72% sent back their forms for analysis.
The results rate the Trust as top in the country for the confidence that women felt in their midwives, obstetricians and other team members.
It also put the Trust well ahead of the national average on nearly all other counts, including the proportion of women who:
- Were offered home births
- Were offered NHS ante-natal care
- Started their babies off exclusively on breast milk
- Were given active support with breastfeeding
- Rated care after giving birth as excellent
Only on two counts was the Trust below the national average, for the proportion of:
- Caesarean section deliveries (though February’s figure was unusually high)
- Women who said they hadn’t been given a copy of the Pregnancy Book
In a series of detailed elements within the survey, local women also put local care ahead of other maternity services. For example:
- 36% said the first professional they had seen was a midwife, as encouraged by national guidance, compared with 20% across the country
- 69% had the same midwife all or most of the time (compared with 57% nationally)
- 46% attended NHS ante-natal classes (31%)
- Labour started naturally, rather than being induced, for 79% (74%)
- 14% had to have an episiotomy (25%)
- 57% had not met any of the staff before (76%)
- 12% felt they had not seen the midwife often enough after giving birth (22%)
- 88% said the hospital was very clean (65%)
- 90% were treated with kindness and understanding during pregnancy (76%)
- The proportions rating care as excellent before, during and after birth were all at least 12 percentage points above the national average
Only in a handful of areas did the Trust come out below the national average. For example:
- 32% of women said they had not had enough to eat during their stay (22% nationally); this is already being addressed
- 20% felt their stay in hospital was too short (12%), despite the fact that more women than the national average stayed at least five days
- 80% thought ante-natal classes were at a convenient time of day (86%)
Julia Drury, the Trust’s Head of Midwifery, said: “These are fantastic results. The midwives and other team members work very hard and are incredibly dedicated to the women they care for, so it’s really gratifying to see that mums in North Devon are reporting such high standards. Now we’ll be aiming to build on the great majority of things we do well and tackle the more-disappointing areas.
Seamus Eckford, Consultant Obstetrician and Clinical Lead for Maternity Services, said: “We’d like to thank all the women who took the trouble to fill in the forms and help us improve the service. The results suggest that women and babies in North Devon are in the very best hands.”