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Irish women are to get a say in their maternity care

Ireland has developed its plans to provide more person centred care by extending their patient surveys to include maternity. This will be the first time that women in Ireland have been asked about their experience of maternity care. The new National Maternity Experience Survey will offer eligible new mothers the opportunity to share their experiences of Ireland’s maternity services. The survey will cover the whole maternity pathway, in order to improve the safety and quality of care given to both mothers and their babies.

What led to the development of the National Maternity Experience Survey?
The successful introduction of the National Inpatient Experience Survey* in 2017 led to a commitment to expand the service to cover other areas of health and social care. Issues with Irish maternity services and a lack of nationally-standardised data on women’s experiences along with other considerations led Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, to endorse the development and implementation of the National Maternity Experience Survey.

Who is running this survey?
The survey is being run by the National Care Experience Programme, a partnership between the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health.

The National Care Experience Programme aims to support and influence national policy and has set out a three-year strategic plan to develop person centred care by listening and responding to people’s experiences. Its mission is:

Hearing, understanding and responding to the experiences of people using Ireland’s health and social care services to drive sustainable improvement.

About the National Maternity Experience Survey
The survey will ask women about their experience of care during pregnancy, during labour and birth, and after their baby is born.

Posters advertising the survey went into clinics in August and will be in hospitals in October. Mothers included in the survey will be those aged 16 or over who have a postal address in the Republic of Ireland, who give birth in October 2019 in large hospitals and those who give birth in October and November in smaller maternity units.

All eligible women will be contacted by post by the end of March 2020 with information about the survey and the link to the online survey. The survey will close on 30th April 2020 and the results then analysed ready for publication in the autumn. It is expected that approximately 6,000 women will participate in the survey in 2020.

What effect have maternity surveys had in other countries?
The Care Quality Commission’s national patient survey programme includes an established maternity survey with around 17,500 women and 129 NHS Trusts taking part in each iteration. Running since 2007, it is the biggest source of data about women’s experience of NHS maternity care in England providing valuable insight into the experiences of mothers.

One of the key areas in maternity care the NHS is aiming to improve as part of its Long Term Plan is continuity of care – when one midwife or a small team of midwives care for a woman throughout their maternity journey. Research shows continuity of care is linked to a variety of positive outcomes including improved safety and a reduction in miscarriages.

The latest results of the NHS England maternity survey showed there has been little progress in this area compared to previous years. A new question in the survey in 2018 showed that only 7% of women experienced continuity of care over the entirety of their maternity pathway. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a target for 20% of pregnant women to have the opportunity to have continuity of care. To help hit this target the NHS is recruiting more Midwives and in March 2019 appointed England’s first Chief Midwifery Officer who will become the most senior midwife in England, providing professional, strategic and clinical leadership to colleagues across the country.

One of the key principles of person centred care is involving people in decisions and respecting their preferences at every stage of their healthcare journey. By using feedback from the NHS England maternity survey the NHS can understand the areas that matter most to mothers and find out where care needs improvement. Likewise, the National Maternity Experience Survey gives Irish women a chance to be at the centre of their care, which will lead to better experiences, improve clinical outcomes, and reduced costs.


Picker’s involvement was to provide an expert review of the survey questions along with consultancy on the sampling and reporting of the survey programme.

If you are an Irish hospital the resources to promote this survey are here.

*This survey was formerly known as the National Patient Experience Survey and was updated to better capture the nature of the survey.


Tags: Irish maternity care, maternity, Maternity care, Maternity Survey, Survey Consultancy.

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