Concerns over maternity provision in North East.
Byline: Katie Dickinson Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
MATERNITY services across the North East need to improve, a health watchdog has warned.
Six of the North East's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been handed a 'needs improvement' rating by NHS England, while NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield and NHS South Tees were two of 11 CCGs nationally rated as requiring the "greatest need for improvement".
The ratings come after NHS England released a new evaluation system based on four key areas: stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates, maternal smoking rate at delivery, experience and choice.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said she welcomed the "openness and transparency in publishing these ratings," but was "concerned about the number of services requiring improvement".
She added: "This is a positive step and one that could help women to be informed about the quality of services where they live and empower them to make more informed decisions about their care.
"Hopefully these ratings will be used to help CCGs learn from the best and to improve quality where that is shown to be needed."
Newcastle Gateshead CCG was rated as needing improvement after the study found that the rates of women smoking during pregnancy stood at 14.7% - an improvement on recent years but still above the national average of 10.2%.
Jane Mulholland, director of operations and delivery at NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, said: "We're pleased that the Newcastle Gateshead area is performing well against three of the four indicators for maternity care.
"Mothers in Newcastle and Gateshead rate their experience and patient choice more highly than the national average, and most importantly, neonatal mortality rates are lower than the country as a whole.
"There is more work to be done on reducing rates of smoking during pregnancy, which is a significant issue in every area, with the figures improving locally over recent years."
Dr Matthew Jolly, from NHS England, said: "It has never been safer to give birth in this country and the vast majority of women report a good experience, but there is more that we can do.
"The newly published ratings will help local areas identify where they are doing well and, importantly, where improvements can be made - helping to ensure women and their families have a good experience wherever they live."
NHS England said it will offer a "comprehensive support package" to help CCGs which are in need of improvement.