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New national maternity early warning system aims to reduce maternal morbidity

Patient deterioration
20 April 2019

A new system is being rolled out to help clinicians quickly respond to deteriorating health in pregnant women in hospital.

Arawhetu Gray, co-chair of the Maternal Morbidity Working Group, says while the great majority of pregnancies are without incident, occasionally when a pregnant woman is in hospital her health may deteriorate.

'Most women are healthy during their pregnancies; however, a small number of women become ill. It is important that these women are identified quickly to prevent deterioration and ensure an appropriate response.'

The national maternity early warning system establishes a consistent process and pathways for recognising and responding to a pregnant or recently pregnant woman’s deterioration. This is especially important for women and clinicians who move between different hospitals and different district health boards (DHBs).

The system is a joint initiative of the working group and the Health Quality & Safety Commission, with input from DHBs and relevant professional colleges. It has been tested in three sites in 2018 before being rolled out from March this year across New Zealand.

Dr Seton Henderson, co-chair of the working group, says the early warning system will bring national consistency to this important area of maternal health.

‘The maternity early warning system will give clinicians the tools and information they need to respond more quickly and effectively when a pregnant woman’s health is deteriorating.’

‘It includes a nationally consistent maternity vital signs chart that reflects the different physiology of a woman’s body during pregnancy. The chart includes a calculated early warning score for early recognition of deterioration, and localised escalation pathways to ensure a quick and effective response.’

By June 2020, the aim is for the system to be monitoring all pregnant woman admitted to hospital in Aōtearoa New Zealand, who require repeated observations.

'We are pleased with the success of the system during the testing in 2018 and look forward to a successful roll-out across the rest of the country.'