NI Caesarean Rate Highest In UK And Ireland

Northern Ireland has the highest rate of children being born via caesarean section in the UK, according to a report carried out by the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

28.4% of births in Northern Ireland throughout 2011 - 12 were caesarean section, compared with 25.0% in England, 25.7% in Wales and 27.8% in Scotland. The UK average was 26.7% and the rate in the Republic of Ireland was 28.0%.

The Maternity Strategy launched by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in 2012 has said interventions can and do save lives, but it identified that there may be scope for reducing variations in the provision of interventions across maternity units.

The report also showed varying results at different maternity units across Northern Ireland. The Mater Hospital in Belfast has a caesarean delivery rate of around 23%, compared to almost 36% at the Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, County Down.

The report said the scale of the variation "may be indicative of variations in clinical practice." It also said that performing caesarean sections in cases where they are not medically necessary can put mothers and babies at risk of infection, extend hospital stays and recoveries and increase healthcare costs.

The report also noted that women who previously delivered by caesarean section form the largest grouping within the overall caesarean section rate.

Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly said: "Caesarean sections undoubtedly save lives and should be performed in all cases where there is a clinical need.

"However, performing unnecessary caesarean sections poses health risks for the mother and baby and incurs additional costs. Caesarean sections typically cost the health service almost twice that of a normal delivery ‐ £3724 compared to £1933. In the current financial climate it seems particularly important that clinical managers in the HSC Trusts understand and manage the cost implications of different modes of childbirth. The use of a classification system such as that demonstrated in this report will be an essential aid in assisting HSC Trusts to verify that resource allocation is determined on the basis of clinical decisions."


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