Mapping maternity care facilities in England
Objective: To describe the organisation of maternity care at trust and unit level in England. Methods: All NHS trusts providing maternity care participated in a survey as part of the Healthcare Commission review of maternity care in England in 2007. Data on trusts and numbers of units were also collected in 2009 as part of the Birthplace in England programme. Results: Models of care provision are limited: in 2007 two-thirds of trusts provided choice between home birth and birth in an obstetric unit only. Geographical variation is substantial, with approximately 70% of trusts in the North-West, Yorkshire and Humberside and London Strategic Health Authority regions having only obstetric units, compared with 50% or less in the South-West and East Midlands. Availability and proximity of specialist facilities for women and babies within trusts varies and is linked with obstetric units. Changes in trust configuration, identified in 2009, have largely resulted from opening alongside midwifery units, then available in a quarter of trusts. Freestanding midwifery units continue to provide care for small numbers of women, commonly in more rural areas. Conclusions: In 2007, 66% of trusts had no midwifery-led units and this is likely to have limited the choices that women were able to make about their planned place of birth and the possibility of having midwife-led care in nonobstetric unit settings. Recent data suggest that women's options for care may have increased, although capacity and staffing issues, reflected in closures to admissions, may affect these. © 2011 The Royal College of Midwives.