Data on this site

Where the data and information on Which? Birth Choice comes from.

Information about NHS maternity units and birth centres in the UK

The units that are displayed on individual pages on this site come from a list of units that’s compiled and kept by Which? and is reviewed and amended on an ongoing basis. If you see that a birth centre or labour ward is missing from the website, or you know that a listed unit has closed, please do get in touch.

From the number of birth pools to whether or not partners can stay overnight, much of the information on the facilities and policies of NHS units that we display on Which? Birth Choice is gathered through an annual audit directed towards Heads of Midwifery. We run this audit every year, in May and June. We’re very grateful to all the maternity units who respond to our annual request for information.

If you’re an NHS midwife with an update about the maternity services that your Trust provides, please email us at birthchoice@which.co.uk and we can update the information we display.

Where we have not had a response from a unit, we gather information through desk research and in some cases the contact information of a unit is obtained from NHS Choices.

Birth statistics

We display birth statistics to show how women give birth in different NHS maternity units and birth centres. If you’re an expectant parent, read our article on the top 10 birth statistics you should look out for when deciding where to give birth. Or if you’re looking for more detail on the source of each statistic on the site read our guide to birth statistics on Which? Birth Choice.

Statistics for alongside birth centres, home births and water births have been supplied by maternity units themselves as part of our audit and are processed by Which?. Other maternity statistics displayed on Which? Birth Choice have been supplied by Rod Gibson Associates Ltd using a number of official sources as outlined below.

England

Statistics for England are based on the number of women giving birth (“deliveries”) rather than the number of babies born. Information about deliveries is derived from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) individual patient Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) records. HES data is used subject to the terms of an HSCIC Re-Use Agreement held by our data supplier Rod Gibson Associates Ltd.

HES data is subject to copyright © 2015, reused with the permission of the Health & Social Care Information Centre. All rights reserved.

Data cleaning methods, algorithms and the risk allocation method were initially developed by Rod Gibson Associates Ltd and were refined during a research project funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services Delivery Research programme (project number 10/1011/94) hosted by King’s College, London. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the HS&DR Programme, NIHR, NHS or Department of Health.

Portions of this material are copyright of Rod Gibson Associates Ltd and copyright of King’s College London, 2012. The King’s College copyright material may be reproduced but must not be amended. If you wish to use the Rod Gibson Associates Ltd / King’s College material or tools for commercial purposes please contact the college to request a licence.

If you want to know more about how the data is cleaned and analysed, please contact us at: birthchoice@which.co.uk

Wales

Statistics, based on the number of live births, are derived from Welsh Government Maternity Statistics and the original data is available from the StatWales website.

© Crown copyright used under the terms of the Open Government License.

All statistics types except planned caesarean/ spent time in labour have been adjusted to show percentages as a proportion of women who spent time in labour.

Scotland

Maternity statistics for Scotland are based on the number of live births. Statistics are derived from Births in Scottish Hospitals and are published by ISD Scotland.

© Copyright NHS National Services Scotland for the NHS Scotland and its agents. See the original data on the ISD website.

All statistics types except planned caesarean/spent time in labour have been adjusted to show percentages as a proportion of women who spent time in labour. Rounding during this process may have led to small inaccuracies in rates shown.

Northern Ireland

Birth statistics are obtained from the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and are based on the number of live births.

© Crown copyright used under the terms of the Open Government License.

Personalisation

To help women make comparisons between their local labour wards and birth centres we personalise the statistics wherever possible, showing them how women who are similar to them in terms of risk and number of previous births have given birth in different hospitals.

This personalisation is only currently possible for England because our data providers Rod Gibson Associates Ltd (part of the BirthChoiceUK team) only have access to individual, anonymised records for England. We cannot show personalised statistics for women living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland because we don’t have access to the individual hospital records.

All individual hospital records used are anonymised so that no single individual can be identified.

Our small numbers policy

Data based on five or fewer women giving birth are treated as “small numbers” and are therefore not disclosed. Instead these data will be “suppressed”. This is so that details about individuals cannot be deduced from the information on this website.

In accordance with HES protocol, any data suppression of percentages based on small numbers from Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) is performed by our data supplier, Rod Gibson Associates Ltd, before the statistics are received by Which?.

In the case of any small numbers, 0% is shown for that outcome, and a note included stating that the actual figure is not disclosed for reasons of confidentiality. When this happens, any corresponding percentage in a bar chart will be increased to 100%. While this is not completely accurate, we think it provides more useful information than showing no data for that hospital.

For freestanding midwife led units, the figure for total births in the unit shown on the unit page comes from government statistics. The total births for calculating statistics such as home births and transfers are provided by the maternity unit themselves through our annual audit. The difference between these figures may give rise to apparent small numbers if back calculation is performed using the official number of births as the denominator instead of the number provided to us. However, no percentages derived from small numbers appear on the site. Find out more about how this has been done.

‘Baby Friendly’ awards

These are awarded by UNICEF as a measure of a maternity unit’s commitment to promoting breastfeeding. This data is available on their website. Find out more about this breastfeeding accreditation from Unicef in our article on what makes a hospital ‘Baby Friendly’.

Neonatal units

The level of neonatal care a maternity unit provides is stated on the individual page for that unit. Units can be found through the search or by browsing the regional pages.

There are three levels of neonatal unit.

  • Level 1 -A Special Care Unit (SCU) provides neonatal care for babies in the local area who need extra support but who don’t require high dependency care.
  • Level 2 – A Local Neonatal Unit (LNU) provides special care for newborn babies in the local area, except for those who are critically ill and need intensive care.
  • Level 3 -A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides special care for newborn babies in the local area and also for critically ill babies from the surrounding area who need the highest level of nursing and medical care.

For many maternity units this information has been provided to us by Heads of Midwifery via our annual audit. Where we haven’t received an update from a unit, this information will have been provided by the Neonatal Data Assessment Unit/National Neonatal Audit Programme for units in England and Wales, and for Scotland and Northern Ireland this was compiled through desk research by BirthChoiceUK.

Reviews of maternity units

All reviews of maternity units are taken directly from Care Opinion, under the Creative Commons licence and are not modified by us in any way. These reviews do not represent the views or opinions of Which? and Which? accepts no responsibility for their content.

CQC survey of women’s experiences

The scores for women’s experiences of maternity services have been taken from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Maternity Services Survey 2015.

Photos of units

We are grateful to all Trusts who responded to our request to supply us with high quality photos of their units where possible. Thank you also to the maternity unit at Kingston University Hospital who kindly accommodated a photo shoot on their premises.


References

These are the sources of information used in this article.

Birthplace in England Collaborative Group, Perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth for healthy women with low risk pregnancies: the Birthplace in England national prospective cohort study, BMJ 2011;343:d7400 (2011)

National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth. NICE Clinical Guideline 190, London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2014)

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