The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have published a report into the ‘State of the Nation’ with regards Maternity Care. It makes for an interesting if somewhat alarming read. It seems that childbirth is falling fowl of the ‘Postcode Lottery’ that is affecting so many aspects of British life.
The report is very careful to point out that while the data quality of many of the hospitals require significant improvement, they have attempted to provide a status nonetheless.
“Some of the observed differences could be due to differences in the quality of the data submitted by trusts…over 10% of hospital trusts failed all data quality checks and [we call] for greater NHS trust engagement in ensuring that IT systems are fit for purpose.”
During our work on the 2011 NICE Guideline on Caesarean Section, csections.org and other organisations made a case for accurate reporting on births. In particular on the importance of separating out emergency from planned caesareans and the underlying indicators leading to each birth.
Media coverage of the recent report suggests that too many women are having planned caesareans prior to 39 week gestation-even in the absence of medical need. Once again the damning ‘Too posh to push’ label rears its head. However this may not be an accurate reflection of the report, for the reasons highlighted above and until such reporting is reliably undertaken by ALL hospitals in the UK it is not possible to say with confidence what the real situation is.
NICE Guidelines are clear-delivery prior to 39 weeks should be avoided unless there is a clear medical reason for it. A baby’s lungs are less well developed prior to this time and are therefore at increased risk of complications.
WHAT DOES THIS REPORT REALLY TELL US?
That while we would like to trust our practitioners have our best interests at heart (and that of our baby), the presence of a ‘postcode lottery’ reveals that advice given to women may be biased by a combination of hospital policy and personal opinion. The hard truth is COST is a major factor in the type and level of care you might receive.