Our investigation into maternity services in West Birmingham reveals some of the barriers encountered by Black African and Black Caribbean women during antenatal care, labour and birth, and postnatal care.

By Healthwatch Birmingham
Investigations 2023

26 women from Black African and Black Caribbean backgrounds told us about variability and inequality in maternity services in West Birmingham. These experiences included:

  • Lack of continuity of carer leading to anxiety and inability to discuss issues such as mental health.
  • Failure to be referred to midwives by their GP, which delayed screening and scans.
  • Poor staff attitudes and behaviour.
  • Lack of access to interpreters or translators.
  • Not feeling they had real choice around where to give birth, and what type of birth to have.

Positive feedback included:

  • Good communication and information about services and how to access support in between appointments.
  • High quality of antenatal classes.
  • Staff that support women with compassion and empathy.

Women also told us about changes they would like to see to maternity services in West Birmingham, such as:

  • Better access to information and improving the information shared with women.
  • Ensuring continuity of carer for all women.
  • Taking action to address structural and interpersonal discrimination, bias and racism.
  • Improving support for women with underlying conditions or comorbidities and other concerns.
  • Making maternity care personal and individualised.

In response to our findings, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (SWBH) has committed to improvements including:

  • Enhancing its interpreting service.
  • Extensive community engagement and training voluntary sector organisations to support families’ access to maternity services.
  • Ensuring that the Trust’s workforce is equipped to provide culturally competent care.

The report by Healthwatch Birmingham, provided Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust maternity services additional valuable insight into the experiences of families using our services. The report was balanced yet comprehensive in detailing what works well for the families we serve alongside what does not, therefore enabling us to work towards implementing the recommendations set out in the report. 

Afrah Muflihi, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead Midwife, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust

Maternity services in West Birmingham: The experiences of Black African and Black Caribbean women Download File (pdf 551.96 KB)

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