Celebrating one year of the Regional Perinatal Equity Network

In this blog our Maternal and Neonatal Clinical Lead, Ann Remmers, looks back on a successful year of the Regional Perinatal Equity Network (RPEN) and forward to the next meeting on 13 October 2022. The network provides an opportunity for those working within maternity and newborn services, related organisations and parents and parent partners to come together across the West and South West of England to learn from each other and share experiences and ideas on how to ensure that equality in maternity and neonatal care is a priority.

In October we will be celebrating one year since we launched our Regional South West and West of England Perinatal Equity Network. Our ambition was to grow a vibrant and collaborative space to share learning and experiences, reviewing emerging evidence and strengthening the impact of those working to reduce inequity in perinatal services. So much seems to have happened since our launch in July 2021. For one thing although we have become used to having virtual meetings from our experience of the global pandemic, we have continued to learn and adapt our meetings to facilitate discussion and share learning.

The development of the network came from a growing commitment in the region to work together to address inequality within maternity and neonatal services; to understand health inequalities in perinatal care and to learn from each other and experts how we could improve. The reasons for this were obvious, health inequalities have a significant impact on outcomes and experience for families. Our RPEN invitation is open to all working within maternity and newborn services, related organisations or those with a responsibility or interest in reducing inequalities in the NHS. We have also warmly welcomed parents to join us. Most people would be horrified to think that where you live, your cognitive ability or the colour of your skin could adversely impact on you and your family’s health. Sadly, we know this is a reality.

Our ambition for the network is to serve as a community of practice, exploring the delivery of meaningful, actionable improvements to reduce inequity of outcomes for black, brown and racially minoritised women and families within the perinatal system. Health inequalities are not restricted to race and ethnicity and this network seeks to understand the wider distribution of burden by socioeconomic markers of inequality and the complex interplay of multiple markers of inequity.

At our July 2021 meeting, Professor Karen Luyt provided insightful observations on the National Child Mortality Database – Health Equities and the impact of inequality on health and wellbeing describing the significant impact health inequality is having on children’s health and mortality. This demonstrated what a significant difference can be made by addressing inequity and inequality in maternity and newborn services and how important it is for us to look at the data and what it is telling us. A message emphasised by Richard Blackwell, Associate Director of Insight at South West AHSN, in a RPEN session on Turning data into action: local equity intelligence into meaningful outcomes.

Our network meetings have provided the opportunity to hear about some of the national approaches, for example the excellent work of the NHS Race and Health Observatory from Dr Habib Naqvi MBE, Director and Yvonne Coghill CBE, Specialist Advisor.

We have discovered how much is also happening locally in our region to address inequity from some innovative work to reduce inequalities in our maternity and neonatal services; for example the support being provided to people with learning disabilities as they go through their pregnancy journey shared with us by Julia Burston, Midwife, at Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust.

Sonah Paton from Black Mothers Matter shared how she and two friends set up the Black Mothers Matter organisation in Bristol, after their own childbirth experiences, to support other black mothers during pregnancy and childbirth. She gave valuable insight into two important reports and their recommendations, one by FiveXMore, The Black Maternity Experiences Survey, and the other by Birthrights, Systemic racism not broken bodies.  Both important documents for health care professionals to read.

Black Mothers Matter is also a member of the West of England AHSN-led collaborative project to address inequality for black women in pregnancy: Black Maternity Matters.

I hope this has given you a taster of our network meetings and will encourage you to join us to hear some amazing speakers, join in some rich discussions and have the opportunity to share learning with your colleagues and friends across the region.

As we celebrate our one-year anniversary I am reflecting on our shared aims, set by the members of our network a year ago, and feel we really are growing into a community which together is working to reduce health inequality in perinatal care. There is always more work to do but with the commitment, passion, knowledge and enthusiasm of all our members there is real hope that we will make a difference.

Join the next RPEN meeting on 13 October to hear from Dr Christine Ekechi, Co-Chair, Race Equality Taskforce, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, be part of a vibrant and collaborative community and share your experiences and learning.

The Regional Perinatal Equity Network aims are:

  • To provide a space for collaboration, discussion and sharing of learning related to reducing inequity for those working in perinatal care in the West and South West region.
  • Demonstrate a regional commitment to addressing inequalities in maternity and neonatal systems
  • Facilitate a psychologically safe space to explore cultural competency and diversity fluency
  • Act as a community of practice for those implementing inequality QI within the maternity and neonatal systems


View our RPEN vision board.

Posted on September 1, 2022 by Ann Remmers, Maternal and Neonatal Clinical Lead

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