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Royal college shelves controversial maternity report

Specialists are to review controversial recommendations on maternity services, after it came under fire for putting ‘unethical' pressure on women to give birth at home and refuse pain relief.

A Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) report said GPs should encourage women to have ‘normal' births, and avoid caesarean sections, inductions and spinal or epidural anaesthetics.

But an RCOG spokesperson told Pulse that the college had removed the report from its website because of the debate it caused, and that the contents will now be reviewed by a senior team at the college.

The report came under fire from women's groups, and some obstetricians, who said putting pressure on women to give birth at home could lead to birth trauma and medical complications.

It also encouraged GP practices to assume more antenatal care to cut costs, despite many saying that GPs now lacked the skills to do this.

The document was produced in collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and parenting charity NCT.

RCM chief executive and general secretary Cathy Warwick said the report had been misinterpreted, and that the aim was to support commissioners of health services to purchase ‘high quality' maternity care.

She said: ‘Avoiding unnecessary interventions has been shown, across a range of research evidence and surveys of women, to lead to better outcomes for women, quicker recovery, improved satisfaction and to save the NHS money. 

‘Saving money is however only valid if it is associated with better outcomes. Reducing unnecessary interventions is perfectly compatible with ensuring women have choice.

‘The RCM has absolutely no intention of denying women choice of pain relief in labour or of reducing necessary caesarean sections and that is not what this document suggests.'

Dr Marie-Louise Irvine, a GP in London, said: ‘I had always thought that looking after pregnant women's "unscheduled" problems was part of our contract as they are our patients and if they are unwell we should provide care for them.

‘Having said that, I would not want to be involved in intra-partum care as we lack the skills, experience and time for that. For most of our patients in inner city London, home birth is just not an option. Most of the families are sharing rooms and don't have the space.'

Download the full report, ‘Making Sense of Commissioning Maternity Services in England – some issues for Clinical Commissioning Groups to consider' here.