Thank you for contacting me about maternal healthcare disparities for women from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Like you, I am extremely concerned by research that shows poor outcomes are much higher for mothers and babies from Black/Black British and Asian/Asian British ethnic groups and women living in the most deprived areas of the country.
To build the evidence base, research is underway to identify the factors associated with the higher risk of maternal death, and more recently to provide data on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on ethnic minority pregnant women.
I am encouraged that the NHS Long Term Plan takes a concerted and systemic approach to reducing health inequalities. Part of this work is looking specifically at improving outcomes for mothers and their babies. By understanding why mortality rates are higher for some groups and considering the evidence about what will reduce mortality rates, appropriate and decisive action can be taken to improve equality and address the disparities you highlight.
The Long Term Plan also committed to implement an enhanced and targeted continuity of carer model for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women. By 2024, 75 per cent of women from BAME background will receive continuity of care from their midwife throughout pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period, with additional midwifery time where needed. The evidence shows that this approach helps reduce pre-term births, hospital admissions, the need for intervention during labour, and improves women’s experience of care. In the meantime, local maternity units are rolling out a standard continuity of carer model and the NHS Planning Guidance 2019/20 stated that that they should prioritise women who could be at higher risk, including BAME women. Furthermore, I welcome the commitment from the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review for an additional £9.4 million to improve maternity safety, and I am optimistic that this will significantly improve outcomes for women from BAME backgrounds.
I hope this response reassures you that this matter is taken extremely seriously by myself and my colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care, and it is something that I will continue to follow closely.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Sally-Ann Hart MP