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Protecting human rights in childbirth

Birthrights welcomes calls to end disparity in maternity care for Black and Brown women and birthing people

  • Birthrights, the UK’s charity for protecting human rights in childbirth, has welcomed the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s report into safety of maternity services in England
  • The Committee’s report highlights women and babies from minority ethnic and socioeconomically deprived backgrounds are at greater risk when compared to their white or less deprived peers
  • Birthrights launched a landmark national inquiry into racial injustice in maternity services in early 2021

Birthrights, the UK’s charity for protecting human rights in childbirth, has today (6 July 2021) welcomed the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s calls for the Government to introduce a target to end the disparity in maternal and neonatal outcomes in black and brown women and birthing people and to have a timeframe for achieving this goal.

The Committee’s report found that the Government’s commitment to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, brain injuries and maternal deaths was not achieving equitable outcomes, with women and babies from minority ethnic and socio-economically deprived backgrounds at greater risk when compared to their white or less deprived peers.

Birthrights launched our flagship national inquiry into racial injustice in early 2021, bringing together the power of the human rights legal framework together with lived experience and maternity care expertise, to investigate how systemic racism is impacting on maternity care, the harms being caused, and what needs to change. In our evidence submission to the Committee, we called for a standalone target to reduce the inequalities in outcomes.

Amy Gibbs, Chief Executive of Birthrights, said:

“As the summary outlines, the NHS offers some of the safest maternal and neonatal outcomes in the world. But while there is much to be praised in the committee’s report, it also demonstrates the extent of culture change needed to achieve safe and respectful maternity care for all.

Professor Marion Knight’s evidence of complexity and microaggressions resonated strongly with the stories we are hearing through our racial injustice inquiry. So we particularly welcome the recommendation for a target and timescale to end the stark inequities in outcomes faced by Black and Brown women and birthing people, which we and others called for. This must be firmly prioritised and implemented as quickly as possible.

We look forward to sharing the findings of our inquiry with government and the NHS, to ensure action on racial inequities is shaped by lived experience and a rights-respecting, anti-racist approach.”

For media enquiries or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact:
Francesca Treadaway, Engagement Director, press@birthrights.org.uk / 07712269568

If you need advice relating to your rights in maternity care please contact advice@birthrights.org.uk.

Editor’s notes

Other key points welcomed by Birthrights:

  • The acknowledgement of a variation in the quality of maternity care experienced in England
  • The emphasis on personalised care: respecting decisions and the need for provision of full, evidence based and unbiased information about all birth options for true informed consent
  • The acknowledgement of staffing shortfalls, and that adequate staffing is the foundation of all improvement in maternity care
  • The call for increased funding for maternity services by a minimum of £200-350 million
  • The recognition of the importance of multi-disciplinary training and the need for ongoing ringfenced funding to ensure its continuation. Every healthcare professional working in maternity services should receive mandatory and regular training on the law around human rights and consent as well as training in having choice conversations with women. Where feedback suggests individual doctors and midwives are not skilled at this, they must be supported to change their practice. It is even more important that service leaders have a strong understanding of individual’s rights in law.
  • The acknowledgement that the current clinical negligence system perpetuates a ‘culture of blame’ and the call for the Government to reform the clinical negligence system in a way that better ‘meets the needs of families’ – but it must be implemented in right way

Read our submission.

The Health and Social Care Committee’s Safety of Maternity Services in England inquiry was launched in July 2020 to identify steps needed to improve safety for mothers and babies.

The report, which also evaluates the Government’s progress against its key policy commitments in maternity care, makes key recommendations to ensure the delivery of safe maternity care for all.

Birthrights submitted written evidence to the Committee in its call for evidence and we are pleased to see our submission and recommendations cited in this report.

About Birthrights

Birthrights is the UK’s only organisation dedicated to improving the experience of pregnancy and childbirth by promoting respect for human rights. We believe that all are entitled to respectful maternity care that protects their fundamental rights to dignity, autonomy, privacy and equality.

We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.

Read our mission statement and values.

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