Issues in Donegal maternity services raised in national survey


Lobby group says survey calls pandemic restrictions on maternity services into question  

Full Capacity Protocol implemented at Letterkenny University Hospital

Letterkenny University Hospital

The Association for Improvement in Maternity Services in Ireland (Aims) has welcomed the publication of the results of the National Maternity Experience Survey.

The survey found maternity services at Letterkenny and in Mayo had the highest rate of "fair or poor" overall experiences in the country, both with 26%.

Of users of the services at Letterkenny University Hospital, 26% of respondents rated their experience as fair to poor, the lowest rating), 23% said their experience was good, and 51% said it was very good.

Donegal was the county with the second-highest poor maternity experience rating (24%) pipped only by Mayo with 25% in the figures detailing Comparison of overall experience ratings by mother’s county of residence.

While many women said that they were treated with respect and dignity, and praised midwives and staff, the survey highlighted several areas in need of improvement in the maternity services at Letterkenny University Hopsital. Women commented that staff were often too busy to help them in the period shortly after birth, and that they did not receive the physical, mental and emotional supports that they needed at this time.

Under the national average

Letterkenny maternity unit scores consistently under the national average in the survey questions on satisfaction with care in pregnancy, and also during labour and birth.

Letterkenny only exceeds national average on questions related to feeding.

Aims says the survey also highlights many of the issues that it and maternity service users have been consistently highlighting for the past 13 years.  These issues arose in the Aims, What Matters To You survey results in 2015 and also are reoccurring issues highlighted by people who contact our support service.

Responding to the launch of the Hiqa report,  Aims chair and member of the National Maternity Experience Survey Programme Oversight Board, Krysia Lynch said: “Whilst the majority of respondents in the survey had a positive experience, we must never forget that every mother and baby that has a poor experience is not just a minor statistic but a dyad that will live with the physical and emotional after-effects of their maternity care experience perhaps for a lifetime. Difficult issues facing users of the maternity services as outlined in this report are brought to our attention every single day at AIMS via our support service, and many of these issues have been raised by us numerous times directly to the HSE. The National Maternity Strategy was to go some way towards addressing these issues, however here we are almost halfway through the implementation period and so few of the recommendations have been acted upon.”

 “Aims would also have to question the currency of this survey”  continued Ms Lynch “when people’s experience of the maternity services have been catastrophically changed by restrictions put in place since the pandemic.  One simply has to look at the importance of partner support antenatally, during labour and birth and postnatally, as alluded to in this survey, to see this. AIMS Ireland will be launching our own survey of Covid related maternity care experiences next week.”


“Aims welcomes what appears to be a higher number of people who report their informed consent being requested before any tests, treatments and procedures then had been reported in our previous survey in 2014/5.  We were disappointed, however, on the first day of National Breastfeeding Week, to see 36% of respondents did not have an opportunity to discuss feeding opportunities during their antenatal care” she added.

“The survey shows a high rate of induction (39% said they were induced) a high rate of caesarean birth (34.2% of births) and a high rate of instrumental birth (14.4%) and paints a picture of a primarily highly medicalised, interventionist maternity service.  Evidence shows us that a person centred approach results in higher satisfaction levels and better obstetric outcomes.  AIMS would like to see more people reporting positive experiences, more people reporting they were offered choice and more people feeling supported in their choices be it in where and how to birth or in feeding their babies.  AIMS believes much of this can be achieved by simply listening to pregnant people and genuinely placing them at the centre of their care.” added the  Aims chair.

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