Baby scans 'failing to check for defects'Some hospitals missing checks on official list

25 January 2008

Four in ten NHS trusts fail to do all the required checks for abnormalities in unborn babies, says a report out today.

The guidelines laid down by the health watchdog the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) recommend an 11-point checklist.

The ultrasound scans include checks on a baby’s heart, the length of the spine and the head shape and size.

Yet a report from the Healthcare Commission out today found that just 61% of scans performed by hospital trusts included all 11 checks.

Nice also raised the requirements for Down’s syndrome screening last year, but the report revealed that many women are receiving inferior screening.

Just one trust in ten reported meeting these targets on Down’s for all women.

Staffing levels

The commission also suggested a link between low staffing levels on maternity wards and overall poor performance.

Professional bodies recommend 36 midwives per 1,000 deliveries to enable one to one care in labour – the average was 31 midwives per 1,000 deliveries while nine trusts had an average of only 26 midwives.

Better news was that most trusts reported that about three quarters of women surveyed said they were satisfied with their pain relief during labour and about the same proportion were satisfied that they could move around as much as they wanted during labour.

Monitor warning

In another warning from a health watchdog, the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued an alert about a foetal monitor.

The MHRA says the Baby Beets Fetal Doppler could pose a potential risk to mother or baby due to the energy emitted.

The watchdog has seized the product from shops and advises anyone selling it to remove from their shelves.