Reassurance over safety of NZ maternity care

Joint statement from the Ministry of Health, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the College of Midwives.

Media release

30 September 2016

[Title] Working together for mothers and babies

Voiceover: Working together for mothers and babies

Andrew Simpson to camera: New Zealand has a world class maternity service with good outcomes for the majority of mothers and babies.

From time to time research prompts questions around safety of care in this area and we are always looking to improve.

We want to reassure you that we have every confidence in the service, that it is safe and robust.

Dr Ian Page to camera: Women in New Zealand have free access to whatever level of care they need, be that a general practitioner, a midwife or an obstetrician if required.

There are measures in place to monitor outcomes, including maternity safety and quality programmes which are operating in all district health boards.

Karen Guilliland to camera: Midwives, obstetricians and those others that work in the maternity services are producing the best outcomes ever for New Zealand mothers and babies.

And we've done this, we've achieved this, by working together.

We all have the same goal, healthy mothers and healthy babies.

Voiceover: For more information on maternity services in New Zealand, go to the Ministry of Health website.

[Title] For more information on maternity services - health.govt.nz/maternity-care

The Ministry of Health, midwives and obstetricians have moved to reassure New Zealanders that maternity services in this country are robust.

Questions have been raised about the safety of care following recent research looking at differences in outcomes for babies for those with midwife-led care compared to those with medical-led care.  

The Ministry of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Andrew Simpson, says, “The study and its findings require further investigation, and the Ministry has already referred it to the National Maternity Monitoring Group for consideration.

“However, it is very important to reassure New Zealanders that the maternity system we have here is safe.

“The study itself backs up what we already know – that New Zealand has low rates of adverse outcomes for both mothers and babies, and which are similar to countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

“While our maternity care is good, there is room for improvement in any system. We are all working towards the same goal – which is the best outcomes for mothers and babies.”

The Chair of the New Zealand Committee of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), Dr Ian Page, says, “The maternity model in New Zealand means women have free access to whatever level of care they need – be that a general practitioner, a midwife, or an obstetrician if required.

“There are measures in place to monitor outcomes, including local maternity quality and safety programmes which have been operating in all District Health Boards since 2012.

“We need to keep the findings of this latest study in perspective, and remember that starting a pregnancy with a midwife as Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) does not mean all the care is given by the midwife alone.

“The study states that differences in outcomes for babies for those with midwife-led care compared to those with medical-led care equate to about 5 per 1000 babies with a low Apgar score, and 3½ per 1000 for hypoxia/birth asphyxia and neonatal encephalopathy. 

“These numbers are reassuringly small, but we should still investigate to see if they can be reduced further. 

“However the study does not (and does not claim to) show that the model of care or caregiver was the cause of the differences,” says Dr Page.

College of Midwives Chief Executive, Karen Guilliland says, “The maternity system team is made up of LMCs in the community, hospital midwives, obstetricians and paediatricians, all working together in the best interests of women and their babies.

“Outcomes for both mothers and babies are very good and are improving year on year, as demonstrated by all of the monitoring data routinely reported.

“We are all focused on ensuring that what is already a world class maternity system continues to improve.”

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