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Perinatal mortality audits and reviews: Past, present and the way forward

Journal title
European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology
Publication year
2020
Author(s)
Helps, A.; Leitao, S.; Greene, R.; O'Donoghue, K.
Pages
24-30
Volume
250

Perinatal deaths are devastating for families and staff involved. Failure to examine perinatal deaths for substandard care prevents learning and may lead to recurrence of events, as well as prolonged morbidity in bereaved families and hospital staff. Perinatal mortality reviews can identify factors contributing to suboptimal care. An integrative literature review was carried out to study the different types of perinatal mortality reviews currently being done internationally, establishing a comparison and examining promising new developments. We start by outlining issues with the classification of perinatal deaths and the different types of perinatal mortality reviews carried out in high-income countries. We reflect on the challenges that are encountered in the current processes and we then comment on how these may be overcome. Current literature shows that differences in classifications of perinatal deaths continue to impede important international comparisons. National perinatal mortality audits can provide reliable high-quality data to facilitate national and international benchmarking. Confidential enquiries give expert assessment on anonymised information to initiate system-wide improvements, but to provide local information on perinatal deaths unit-based multi-disciplinary team reviews are required. Additionally, there is a need to shift from a blame-culture to a focus on achieving best practice by learning from mistakes. Review tools and processes have been implemented in some countries to standardize perinatal mortality reviews, but there is still more work to be done. Involving the bereaved parents in the perinatal mortality review process is important and ways to achieve this are progressing. A structured approach to the perinatal mortality review process should be developed to facilitate sharing of experiences and challenges at national (or international) level. To achieve a reduction in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths, it is crucial to ensure that the perinatal mortality audit and review cycle is completed with implementation and re-evaluation of recommended changes in maternity services.

Research abstracts