Birth "Out-of-Hours": An Evaluation of Obstetric Practice and Outcome According to the Presence of Senior Obstetricians on the Labour Ward.
e1002000 - ?
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BACKGROUND: Concerns have been raised that a lack of senior obstetricians ("consultants") on the labour ward outside normal hours may lead to worse outcomes among babies born during periods of reduced cover. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We carried out a multicentre cohort study using data from 19 obstetric units in the United Kingdom between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013 to examine whether rates of obstetric intervention and outcome change "out-of-hours," i.e., when consultants are not providing dedicated, on-site labour ward cover. At the 19 hospitals, obstetric rotas ranged from 51 to 106 h of on-site labour ward cover per week. There were 87,501 singleton live births during the year, and 55.8% occurred out-of-hours. Women who delivered out-of-hours had slightly lower rates of intrapartum caesarean section (CS) (12.7% versus 13.4%, adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.94; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.90 to 0.98) and instrumental delivery (15.6% versus 17.0%, adj. OR 0.92; 95% CI 0.89 to 0.96) than women who delivered at times of on-site labour ward cover. There was some evidence that the severe perineal tear rate was reduced in out-of-hours vaginal deliveries (3.3% versus 3.6%, adj. OR 0.92; 95% CI 0.85 to 1.00). There was no evidence of a statistically significant difference between out-of-hours and "in-hours" deliveries in the rate of babies with a low Apgar score at 5 min (1.33% versus 1.25%, adjusted OR 1.07; 95% CI 0.95 to 1.21) or low cord pH (0.94% versus 0.82%; adjusted OR 1.12; 95% CI 0.96 to 1.31). Key study limitations include the potential for bias by indication, the reliance upon an organisational measure of consultant presence, and a non-random sample of maternity units. CONCLUSIONS: There was no difference in the rate of maternal and neonatal morbidity according to the presence of consultants on the labour ward, with the possible exception of a reduced rate of severe perineal tears in out-of-hours vaginal deliveries. Fewer women had operative deliveries out-of-hours. Taken together, the available evidence provides some reassurance that the current organisation of maternity care in the UK allows for good planning and risk management. However there is a need for more robust evidence on the quality of care afforded by different models of labour ward staffing.
AuthorsKnight, HE; van der Meulen, JH; Gurol-Urganci, I; Smith, GC; Kiran, A; Thornton, S; Richmond, D; Cameron, A; Cromwell, DA
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