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Views & Reviews Television Review

The wrong way to highlight problems in maternity care

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 03 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4855
  1. James Owen Drife, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, Leeds
  1. J.O.Drife{at}

BBC’s Panorama suggests the NHS in London is failing to deliver safe maternity care, but James Owen Drife thinks the programme may alienate clinicians, and asks why the report on which it is based was not published before transmission

In the first six months of 2010 there were 21 maternal deaths in London—as many as in the whole of the previous year. Seventeen of those 42 deaths, according to an independent report, could have been prevented with better care. This was the startling information that appeared on the BBC website and in newspapers in advance of a Panorama programme investigating the effects of increasing pressure on maternity services.

I wanted to read the independent report before watching the programme, but it was not available. I found that it had been commissioned in September 2010 by NHS London, a strategic health authority, and completed by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE), the organisation responsible for the United Kingdom’s national reports on maternal deaths. NHS London had not published the report, and CMACE no longer exists.

CMACE used to put a media embargo on …

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