National Maternity Voices’ response to the Care Quality Commission’s report, “Safety, Equity and Engagement in Maternity Services”
We welcome the focus that this CQC report brings to the role of Maternity Voices Partnerships in promoting safer and more equitable maternity services.
Maternity Voices Partnerships have huge potential to drive improvement in maternity services, by bringing together service users from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds to work collaboratively with staff who commission and provide the service.
By getting involved in the Maternity Voices Partnership, a service user can move from being a passive recipient of care to an active participant making changes for their family and the wider community.
As the Care Quality Commission has identified, there is variation around the country in the support and engagement that MVPs receive from the NHS. For the potential of MVPs to be fully realised, there is a need for:
- Consistent and appropriate resourcing
MVP chairs are passionate about improving maternity services and act as a critical friend of their local service. Most are mothers of young children and need payment in order to spend the time needed to undertake the role effectively. To ensure these roles are accessible to all, it’s vital that payments are reliable, regular and reflect the amount of work required for the role. We regularly hear from MVP chairs who are struggling to continue as these conditions are not in place. MVPs need to be resourced to be able to effectively reach out to all service users in their community, especially those who tend to experience poorer outcomes and who may experience barriers to getting their voice heard.
- Support and engagement from NHS staff
Effective MVPs are a partnership between staff and service users working together as equals. There is considerable variation in the level of staff engagement with MVPs. Where staff are fully engaged, we see service improvement and action to reduce inequality in response to service user feedback. Staff need clear expectations for their involvement, sufficient time to participate and access to relevant training.
- National coordination and support
National Maternity Voices provides vital networking, support and representation for (and by) MVP service user chairs, including a peer support group for chairs from Black, Asian, and other Minority Ethnic backgrounds. We have been pleased to support CQC’s investigation of the role of MVPs in improving equity in maternity services. We look forward to supporting MVP chairs to participate in the coproduction of local maternity equity plans.
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