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Maternity Services

Volume 488: debated on Monday 2 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many babies were born in stand-alone, midwife-led units in each of the last 10 years; (260190)

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the clinical safety of stand-alone, midwife-led units;

(3) how many midwife-led maternity units there are; and how many of these units are (a) co-located with consultant-led maternity services and (d) stand-alone.

Midwifery led care may take place in the home, in a freestanding midwifery facility, an alongside midwifery facility or within a hospital delivery suite. Information of birth in midwifery facilities is not collected centrally. We have commissioned the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) to undertake an integrated programme of research entitled ‘Birthplace’, which is designed to compare outcomes of births planned at home, in different types of midwifery units, and in hospital units with obstetric services—the NPEU are expected to report at the end of the year.

We do not routinely collect details of numbers of maternity units although a one-off survey by the Healthcare Commission suggested that in March 2007, there were 382 maternity units, of which 101 were midwifery-led. We do not know how many were stand-alone and how many co-located with consultant-led units.