[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To explore implementation of the modified early obstetric warning system (MEOWS) in practice to further understanding about the influence of contextual factors.
An ethnographic study using observations (>120 h), semi-structured interviews (n=45) and documentary review was performed in the maternity services in two UK hospitals over a 7-month period. Doctors, midwives and managers participated in the study and data were analysed thematically.
For women admitted to hospital in the antenatal and postnatal period with an established risk of morbidity, the MEOWS enabled communication about vital signs from junior to senior midwives and obstetricians. The trigger prompts helped shape shared understandings of maternal complications. However, midwifery and obstetric staff questioned the added value of an extra chart in the postnatal period given the low incidence of maternal complications and the resulting increase in workload. In an effort to prioritise workload demands and respond to the immediate needs of both women and their babies, midwives exercised professional discretion regarding its use. However, discretionary use of MEOWS meant the loss of a potential universal safety net for detection of deterioration.
Despite a decade of use in acute settings, research into the effectiveness of early warning systems still yields conflicting results. Widespread policy support for the MEOWS is based on its intuitive appeal and no validated system for use in the maternity population currently exists. Our findings suggest that, while the MEOWS has value in structuring the surveillance of hospitalised women with an established risk of morbidity, the complexities of managing risk and safety within the maternity pathway, the associated opportunity costs of MEOWS and variation in implementation currently call into question its role for routine use.
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[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In England, there is a policy of offering healthy women with straightforward pregnancies a choice of birth setting. Options may include home or a freestanding midwifery unit (FMU). Transfer rates from these settings are around 20%, and higher for nulliparous women. The duration of transfer is of interest because of the potential for delay in access to specialist care and is also of concern to women. We aimed to estimate the duration of transfer in births planned at home and in FMUs and explore the effects of distance and urgency on duration.
This was a secondary analysis of data collected in a national prospective cohort study including 27,842 'low risk' women with singleton, term, 'booked' pregnancies, planning birth in FMUs or at home in England from April 2008 to April 2010. We described transfer duration using the median and interquartile range, for all transfers and those for reasons defined as potentially urgent or non-urgent, and used cumulative distribution curves to compare transfer duration by urgency. We explored the effect of distance for transfers from FMUs and described outcomes in women giving birth within 60 minutes of transfer.
The median overall transfer time, from decision to transfer to first OU assessment, was shorter in transfers from home compared with transfers from FMUs (49 vs 60 minutes; p < 0.001). The median duration of transfers before birth for potentially urgent reasons (home 42 minutes, FMU 50 minutes) was 8-10 minutes shorter compared with transfers for non-urgent reasons. In transfers for potentially urgent reasons, the median overall transfer time from FMUs within 20 km of an OU was 47 minutes, increasing to 55 minutes from FMUs 20-40 km away and 61 minutes in more remote FMUs. In women who gave birth within 60 minutes after transfer, adverse neonatal outcomes occurred in 1-2% of transfers.
Transfers from home or FMU commonly take up to 60 minutes from decision to transfer, to first assessment in an OU, even for transfers for potentially urgent reasons. Most transfers are not urgent and emergencies and adverse outcomes are uncommon, but urgent transfer is more likely for nulliparous women.