The BMJ reports hospitals in England have been told to stop using targets for caesarean section rates over patient safety concerns. In a letter to trust medical directors and maternity units, NHS England and NHS Improvement said hospitals should no longer use “total caesarean section rates as a means of performance management” because it may lead to targets being pursued that “may be clinically inappropriate or unsafe in individual cases.”
Prior to this, maternity units were encouraged to promote natural births and keep the Caesarean rate to about 20%, following advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, given in 2012. BBC News reports maternity staff have been told to treat cases on an individual basis and follow National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance allowing women to opt for a planned Caesarean even if it is not for medical reasons.
Last year, the Health and Social Care Committee found 1,000 more babies a year would survive if England had safer maternity services (BBC, 6/6/21).
- The BMJ: https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o446
- NICE Guidelines on Caesarean birth (NG192)
- BBC News, 21 Feb 2022: NHS England drops limit on offering Caesarean births
- BBC News, 6 Jul 2021: Culture of blame holding back maternity safety, report finds