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Summary

Evidence for staffing recommendations in labour wards is scant. This study aimed to test association between midwife workload with adjusted process of continuous electronic fetal monitoring (CEFM) and neonatal outcome indicators. This was a prospective workload study in 23 consultant-led labour wards in Scotland. There were 3489 livebirths during September 2000, and 1561 consecutively delivered women with CEFM case review during the mid-two weeks. Process measures were: adjusted rates of CEFM, appropriate CEFM, and time to medical response for a serious fetal heart trace abnormality. Neonatal outcome indicators were: Apgar score < 7 at 5 minutes, admission to neonatal unit (NNU) > 48 hours, and neonatal resuscitation. Complete information was available for 99% (2553/2576) of workload time points, 99% (1559) of CEFM process, and 3083 eligible neonates. There were no associations between occupancy or staffing ratios and adjusted CEFM process, Apgar < 7 at 5 minutes (0.98 [0.83, 1.15]) or admission to NNU for > 48 hours (0.97 [0.95, 1.00]). However, there was association between increasing staffing ratios and lower odds of adjusted neonatal resuscitation (excluding bag and mask only) (0.97 [0.94, 0.99]). The direction of effect of increasing workload suggests detriment to outcome indicators, although the size of effect may be small.