Intended for healthcare professionals


Colleges issue guidelines toreduce deaths of babies

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 20 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:755
  1. Pat Anderson
  1. London

    Obstetricians and midwives have made recommendations to help ensure safer childbirth in the United Kingdom, including a proposed change to consultants' working hours which could lead to the appointment of more consultants.

    Towards Safer Childbirth, a joint report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, says that consultants should supervise staff directly for 40 hours during the working week.

    It says greater participation of consultants will lead to better communication, better organisation, and improved decision making, which in turn should contribute to a reduction in the number of intrapartum deaths, asphyxiated babies, and maternal deaths. At present about 600 normally formed, mature babies die unexpectedly during labour in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland each year.

    The recommendations draw on the United Kingdom's Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths in Infancy, which found that in 52%of intrapartum deaths studied, alternative management would reasonably be expected to have made a difference to outcome. The inquiry identified poor communication between doctors and midwives as a major cause of poor care.

    Towards Safer Childbirth: Minimum Standards for the Organisation of Labour Wards, is available from the RCOG bookshop, 27 Sussex Place, London NW1 4RG, price £6, plus 60p postage.

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