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Health A-Z

Maternity: ward worries

I am hoping to become pregnant soon but have discovered that my local maternity unit has one of the highest death rates in the country and has been placed under special measures. Do I have any choice about which hospital I must attend for maternity services? I live in London so there are lots of hospitals within easy reach. Is there any kind of league table for maternity services that would indicate those with a good reputation?

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

The choice of where you have your baby is important, because you want to have a comfortable experience. But there are many other factors, apart from the hospital, that can contribute to a good birth. The NHS is now beginning to take patient choice seriously, and if you ask to go to a specific hospital, you should be able to arrange it. There may be some resistance from your GP or your Primary Care Trust. But if you feel strongly about a particular hospital, don't be pushed around. There are practical reasons why it may not be sensible to arrange to have a baby at a hospital miles from your home.

Driving across London when you are in labour is neither sensible nor safe. And the midwives who are attached to your local hospital may be able to provide antenatal care much more easily than midwives who are miles away. Maternity units are required to publish data about their results, and much of this is collated on the Dr Foster website: www.drfoster.co.uk. Sometimes the best guide to how good a hospital maternity unit is is the personal recommendation of friends and family.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.