Inquiry into NHS maternity racism allegations

patient observations

We are concerned to note that an inquiry has recently opened up to investigate NHS maternity racism allegations, after data published in January raised concerns about the racial disparity of medical outcomes for pregnant women.

The study by MBRRACE-UK reportedly found that black women can be “four-times more likely” to die in childbirth or pregnancy than white women. Reports also indicated that women from Asian backgrounds could be twice as likely to be involved in a fatal outcome.

There are also broader concerns about the poorer medical treatment that pregnant women from ethnic minorities may be receiving from NHS professionals. The inquiry is set to look at how systemic racism manifests itself in maternity care.

Concerns raised by NHS maternity racism allegations

Everyone treated by the NHS deserves to receive an equal standard of care, so it is disturbing to hear that there may be systemic racism that affects our society and that this could be infringing upon the health outcomes of those in minority ethnic groups.

As medical negligence specialists, we believe that is vital that inequalities are stamped out to ensure universal patient safety.

The NHS maternity racism allegations have yet to establish the potential full scale of the problem, but the statistics alone are shocking. The danger for ethnic minority women also extends beyond the maternity care that they receive. A study reportedly revealed that pregnant black women can be eight times more likely to go into hospital relating to Covid-19 issues when compared to white women. Further, pregnant Asian women could be four times likelier to be hospitalised.

Coronavirus appears to have further worsened the existing inequalities of the health service.

The discrimination may range from explicit racism to unconscious bias, but the inquiry will hope to determine the exact nature of the problem. The research published is not the first sign of NHS maternity racism allegations. As far back as 2013, a study reportedly indicated that ethnic minority women could be affected by problems including:

  • Worse maternity care experienced;
  • More likely to give birth by Caesarean section;
  • Less likely to receive pain relief during labour;
  • Receiving “fewer home visits from midwives”.

Impact on standard of care

Anecdotally, it seems that the racial bias has the consequence of making women feel like their concerns are not being listened to. One woman reported that her request for pain relief during childbirth was not taken seriously until her baby’s heart rate dropped.

There is an ongoing initiative designed to ensure women from minority ethnic groups are seen by the same midwife for the duration of their pregnancies, but this does not address the root of the problem. Campaigners hope that more direct action will be taken after the completion of the inquiry.

Pregnant women and medical negligence

As medical negligence lawyers, the NHS maternity racism allegations are of profound concern to us.

Any pregnant woman who feels that her health has worsened or was endangered by the poor treatment of a health professional may have been the victim of medical negligence. If we can prove a link between your ill health and poor treatment, whether this is a failure to correctly treat a problem or an avoidable diagnosis error, you may be in line for thousands of pounds in compensation.

Contact us for free, no-obligation advice on any medical negligence concerns you may have.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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