28 July 2011

The launch of the Maternity Quality and Safety Programme today has been welcomed by the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) which says the programme will strengthen the team approach to maternity care. At the same time the Government has released the report of the Perinatal and Maternity Mortality Review Committee.

This report shows that perinatal mortality rates in New Zealand are comparable to those in the UK and Australia, confirming that our maternity system is generally working well. The report does highlight 14% of perinatal deaths that were potentially avoidable. This small number of potentially avoidable deaths is why we so badly need this maternity quality initiative.

The programme includes New Zealand maternity standards, a set of clinical indicators, and new referral guidelines that will assist lead maternity carers to make timely referrals to other health professionals. These have been developed over the last two years and the NZMA is pleased that this has been done by the clinical leaders of midwifery, specialist obstetricians and general practitioners. All these groups have worked well together dispelling the myth that doctors and midwives cannot work together for the benefit of patients.

For the first time the referral guidelines include recommended referrals to the woman’s Primary Healthcare team. “This will help forge a stronger relationship between midwives and primary care and ensure that women have access to the antenatal care they require,” says NZMA Deputy Chair and Maternity spokesperson Dr Mark Peterson.

“These initiatives recognise the importance of better coordination of medical and midwifery services, and the result will be better care and improved safety. The NZMA has actively advocated a team approach as the best way to ensure quality care for mothers and babies.”

The programme includes an enhanced information system that will collect maternity data from DHBs and establish a national database, a move that has been sought by the NZMA for some time. It also includes work on a Shared Record of Care which will enhance the communication between providers that is so essential to enhancing teamwork within maternity care. 

“If we are to champion quality and safety improvements in maternity care, then it is vital that we have comprehensive information which allows us to identify problems and determine where improvements can be made. Children need the best start in life and that begins with excellence in maternity care.”

Dr Peterson says that the NZMA would still like to see changes in the way primary maternity care is funded so that, like other primary care funding, it is channelled through PHOs. “This would further the team approach to maternity care and would create opportunities for better linkages and continuity of care for New Zealand families”.