a1 Department of Women's Health, Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB.
a2 Research into Safety and Quality (RiSQ) Group, School of Clinical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 1500 women die every day from preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. While barriers to accessing healthcare are undoubtedly multi-factorial, studies have repeatedly shown that providing skilled healthcare workers can result in untold benefits for women and babies in developing countries. The phenomenon of preventable maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality is not limited to the developing world. The Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths (CEMD) and Stillbirths and Infant Deaths (CESDI) in the UK have repeatedly identified substandard care as a major contributor to maternal and neonatal mortality. In 2008 The King's Fund published Safe Births: Everybody's business, an independent enquiry into the safety of maternity services in England. This recommended that simulation-based training to assess clinical, communication and team skills should be available to all maternity staff, and that training should form a core activity. Many hospitals in the UK have been running in-house courses for staff for over a decade with measurable improvements in neonatal outcomes. The value of these training schemes is recognised and rewarded through reduced insurance premiums for participating hospital trusts as part of clinical negligence schemes. Gaining competence in managing obstetric emergencies presents particular challenges for trainees. Most emergencies are, thankfully, uncommon but some constitute life-threatening events where management naturally falls to the most experienced available clinician. The skills required are often particular to emergencies and therefore novel to trainees. Utilising emergencies as training opportunities is further complicated by the presence of a conscious patient.
(Online publication December 21 2010)