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Keywords:

  • clinical audit;
  • perinatal mortality;
  • practice guidelines as topic

Background:  Deficiencies in investigation and audit of perinatal deaths result in loss of information thereby limiting strategies for future prevention. The Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) developed a clinical practice guideline for perinatal mortality in 2004.

Aims:  To determine the current use and views of the PSANZ guideline, focussing on the investigation and audit aspects of the guideline.

Methods:  A telephone survey was conducted of lead midwives and doctors working in birth suites of maternity hospitals with over 1000 births per annum in Australia and New Zealand.

Results:  Sixty-nine of the 78 eligible hospitals agreed to participate. A total of 133 clinicians were surveyed. Only 42% of clinicians surveyed were aware of the guideline; more midwives than doctors were aware (53 vs 28%). Of those, only 19% had received training in their use and 33% reported never having referred to them in practice. Implementation of even the key guideline recommendations varied. Seventy per cent of respondents reported regularly attending perinatal mortality audit meetings; midwives were less likely than doctors to attend (59 vs 81%). Almost half (45%) of those surveyed reported never receiving feedback from these meetings. The majority of clinicians surveyed agreed that all parents should be approached for consent to an autopsy examination of the baby; however, most (86%) reported the need for clinician training in counselling parents about autopsy.

Conclusions:  Effective implementation programmes are urgently required to address suboptimal uptake of best practice guidelines on perinatal mortality audit in Australia and New Zealand.