Monthly column for providers and professionals working in healthcare from Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals.

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We use surveys as an important barometer to find out what people think of the NHS healthcare services that they use.

The results help us to monitor and assess performance, and can be used by trusts to help them identify where changes can be made to ensure they are providing consistent and high-quality care.

This week saw the publication of the findings from our national maternity survey of more than 17,600 women who gave birth in February last year.

The findings highlight women’s views on all aspects of their maternity care — from the first time they saw a clinician or midwife, during labour and birth, through to the care provided at home in the weeks following the arrival of their baby.

While many women had a good experience, for some the care they received fell short of expectations. Issues were highlighted around continuity of care, choice in antenatal and postnatal services and access to help, information and support after giving birth.

I would encourage those trusts providing maternity services to review their individual survey results to identify where changes can be made to ensure consistent and high-quality care for the benefit of all women and their families. This is important if we are to realise the ambition of the NHS long term plan for the best maternity care in the world.

You may have also seen this week that the first cohort of qualified nursing associates have been able to join the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register for the first time. This important role is intended to address a skills gap between health and care assistants and registered nurses. It will also help widen access to the health and care professions by opening up new routes to training that previously didn’t exist.

I am supportive of this new role, and the potential it has to shape the NHS and social care workforce in the future and to lead to better experiences for people using services and their families.

Through our inspections and ongoing monitoring, we will look to ensure that nursing associates are being employed safely. This will include checking that health and care providers are using evidence-based tools and professional judgement to determine the number of nursing associates and range of skills required to meet people’s needs and keep them safe at all times.

We have produced a briefing for providers, setting out links to guidance about this new role and what it means for services; what to be aware of under the Health and Social Care Act and specific regulated activities; and how CQC will consider the new role in our inspection and regulation.

Finally, we have published a report looking at how older people move through the health and social care system in Reading. Reviewers found that older people had a positive experience of health and social care services. People were treated with dignity, and as individuals. Some areas of improvement were highlighted, such as improving support for carers, which had already been recognised by the local system leaders.

We have also published progress reports looking at how the systems in Oxfordshire, Stoke-on-Trent and York have responded to their initial system reviews last year. In all of these cases, reviewers found improvements had been made but more work was required.

These reports mark the end of our local system review programme, and I would encourage you to review the reports and revisit Beyond barriers, which set out our key findings after the first 20 reviews.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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