Social media can help improve the maternity experience

As NHS England announces the winners of its Maternity Challenge Fund – where trusts competed for cash awards to take forward exciting initiatives to turn maternity patient feedback into service improvement – NHS England’s Maternity Experience of Care Lead talks about the new opportunities for boosting insight:

Creating an environment of continuous learning and improvement in maternity care is vital as we move our services to being truly world class.

The recent maternity review highlights the “birth of a child should be a wonderful, life-changing time for a mother and her whole family. It is a time of new beginnings, of fresh hopes and new dreams, of change and opportunity. It is a time when the experiences we have can shape our lives and those of our babies and families forever. These moments are so precious, and so important. It is the privilege of the NHS and healthcare professionals to care for women, babies and their families at these formative times.”

In 2014 there were 664,543 births in England: that’s a tremendous amount of experience and insight to learn from. We currently have a range ways of gathering these experiences, from the Friends and Family Test, the National Care Quality Commission Survey local surveys, letters of appreciation and sadly, when things go wrong, complaints and investigations into serious incidents too.

Over the last few years, maternity experience improvement discussions have also embraced the use of social media, which presents a host of new opportunities. Take a look at the hashtag #MatExp on twitter to be inspired and join the discussion with mums, dads, midwives and obstetricians who are all sharing what works and what doesn’t in improving maternity experiences.

Jenny Clarke, the midwife who tweets as @jennytheM promotes #SkintoSkin; Florence Wilcock, the obstetrician @FWmaternitykhft, highlights the importance of working with mothers to improve experiences and has developed a fabulous game with Gill Philips (@WhoseShoes), bringing the public and professionals together to co-produce solutions; Helen Calvert (@HeartMummy) promotes hospital breastfeeding; and Leigh Kendal (@LeighKendall) shares beautiful baby Hugo with us who sadly died, but challenges us to speak openly about loss experiences to drive improvement.

Sheena Byrom (@SagefemmeSB), author of “The Roar Behind the Silence”, highlights the importance of also valuing staff experience and the vital role this has in improving maternity experiences. And if you haven’t see the maternity experience film yet, take a look – with the tissues at the ready! . A conversation on #MatExp is constantly in progress.

Maternity Services Liaison Committees (MSLCs) are another way to learn from insight through conversations, bringing users and professionals together to not only hear the challenges but co-design and co-produce solutions. Mary Newburn (@MaryNewburn1) and NCT (NCTCharity) are worth a follow for ideas and resources

Working with vulnerable, seldom heard-of groups is a real priority identified through insight work in maternity and in the last year we’ve heard from mums with learning disabilities of their desire to have access to easy read information. And we’ve also heard that mums from black and minority ethnic groups need further focus. Apps such as the “Baby Buddy” from Best Beginnings are proving popular with young mums too to enhance their experiences by building health literacy skills.

Insight on maternity experience is rich and diverse across the NHS and beyond. It’s being captured in a variety of ways and together the public and professionals are now working together to consistently ensure great care is delivered to all new families.

The Maternity Experience Challenge Fund and the implementation of the Maternity Review in the year ahead will amplify the importance of action on insight. Please join us on our improvement journey: all are welcome.

  • Kath is a keen user of social media, follow her at @kathevans2.
Kath Evans

Kath Evans, RGN, RSCN, MSc (Nursing), PG Dip (Education), BSc (Hons), PG Dip (Management), Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Accredited Coach, is NHS England’s Experience of Care Lead – Maternity, Infants, Children and Young People.

She is a registered general and children’s nurse and her career has included clinical, educational, managerial and service improvement roles.

She is committed to ensuring the voices of children, young people, families/carers and maternity service users are heard in their care and in the design, delivery and commissioning of services.

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