Skip to main content


Volume 401: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) mothers and (b) babies were harmed in childbirth last year in hospital; and what action he is taking to reduce incidence of harm in childbirth. [100570]

Information relating to harm to mothers and babies in hospital is not collected centrally by the Department. However, data on perinatal mortality, shown in the table, shows a continuing reduction in numbers and rate.

Perinatal deaths (stillbirths plus deaths at ages up to six completed days of life): England and Wales 1992–01
NumberRate per 1,000 total births
1 For data from 1993, the definition of a stillbirth changed from 28 weeks to 24 weeks gestation.
2 Provisional


Office of National Statistics

The Government has established the National Patient Safety Agency to improve the safety of National Health Service patient care by promoting an open and fair culture and by introducing a national reporting and learning system for adverse events, including those involving mothers and their babies. The system will be rolled out across the NHS from summer 2003.

The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (CEMD), established in 1952, collects data and analyses data on all maternal deaths in the United Kingdom. This covers deaths of women while pregnant or within 42 days of delivery, miscarriage or termination of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. The last report covering 1997–1999 was published in December 2001 and is available at

The Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths in Infancy (CESDI) was established in 1992 with the aim of collecting and analysing data on deaths in late foetal life (involving foetuses at more than 20 weeks' gestation) and infancy (children up to one year) and to use the findings to reduce the risk of such deaths. The report covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own confidential enquiry.

The findings of both CEMD and CESDI are important to both individuals and professional bodies. The messages are wide ranging and applicable to the entire spectrum of health workers, ranging from doctors, midwives, nurses and health visitors to coroners, and at times findings are particularly relevant to parents. All the professions represented on the CEMD & CESDI enquiries are signed up to implement its recommendations.

In addition, the Department's programme of work to reduce harm to mother and baby during childbirth, includes:

Issuing clinical guidelines through the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Guidelines have been published on the use of electronic foetal monitoring, induction of labour and routine use of Anti-D prophylaxis for rhesus negative pregnant women.
Further guidelines are due later this year on antenatal care, including antenatal screening, and the use of caesarean sections. We have also recently commissioned guidelines on intrapartum care (delivery), and post natal care.
Developing a children's national service framework, including maternity services, to set national standards of care for antenatal, intrapartum and post natal services.