To assess the implementation and first results of a term perinatal internal audit by a standardised method.
Population-based cohort study.
All 90 Dutch hospitals with obstetric/paediatric departments linked to community practices of midwives, general practitioners in their attachment areas, organised in perinatal cooperation groups (PCG).
The population consisted of 943 registered term perinatal deaths occurring in 2010–2012 with detailed information, including 707 cases with completed audit results.
Main outcome measures
Participation in the audit, perinatal death classification, identification of substandard factors (SSF), SSF in relation to death, conclusive recommendations for quality improvement in perinatal care and antepartum risk selection at the start of labour.
After the introduction of the perinatal audit in 2010, all PCGs participated. They organised 645 audit sessions, with an average of 31 healthcare professionals per session. Of all 1102 term perinatal deaths (2.3/1000) data were registered for 86% (943) and standardised anonymised audit results for 64% (707). In 53% of the cases at least one SSF was identified. Non-compliance to guidelines (35%) and deviation from usual professional care (41%) were the most frequent SSF. There was a (very) probable relation between the SSF and perinatal death for 8% of all cases. This declined over the years: from 10% (n=23) in 2010 to 5% (n=10) in 2012 (p=0.060). Simultaneously term perinatal mortality decreased from 2.3 to 2.0/1000 births (p<0.00001). Possibilities for improvement were identified in the organisation of care (35%), guidelines or usual care (19%) and in documentation (15%). More pregnancies were antepartum selected as high risk, 70% in 2010 and 84% in 2012 (p=0.0001).
The perinatal audit is implemented nationwide in all obstetrical units in the Netherlands in a short time period. It is possible that the audit contributed to the decrease in term perinatal mortality.