Abstract Background In the United Kingdom, midwives will engage in discussions with the multidisciplinary team as to whether they can provide Obstetric High Dependency Care (OHDC) on the Delivery Suite or whether a woman’s care should be escalated to the critical care team. This study aimed to explore the question: What factors influence midwives to provide OHDC or request care be escalated away from the obstetric unit in hospitals remote from tertiary referral centres? Methods Focus groups were undertaken with midwives (n = 34) across three obstetric units in England, with annual birth rates ranging from 1500 to 5000 per annum, in District General Hospitals. Three scenarios in the form of video vignettes of handover were used as triggers for the focus groups. Scenario 1; severe pre-eclampsia, physiologically unstable 2; major postpartum haemorrhage requiring invasive monitoring 3; recent admission of woman with chest pain receiving facial oxygen and requiring continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring. Two focus groups were conducted in each of the obstetric units with experienced midwives. Data were analysed using a qualitative framework approach. Results Factors influencing midwives’ care escalation decisions included the care environment, a woman’s diagnosis and fetal or neonatal factors. The overall plan of care including the need for ECG and invasive monitoring were also influential factors. Midwives in the smallest obstetric unit did not have access to the facilities for OHDC provision. Midwives in the larger obstetric units provided OHDC but identified varying degrees of skill and sometimes used ‘workarounds’ to facilitate care provision. Midwifery staffing levels, skill mix and workload were also influential. Some differences of opinion were evident between midwives working in the same obstetric units as to whether OHDC could be provided and the support they would enlist to help them provide it. Reliance on clinical guidelines appeared variable. Conclusions Findings indicate that there may be inequitable OHDC provision at a local level. Organisationally robust systems are required to promote safe, equitable OHDC care including skills development for midwives and precise escalation guidelines to minimise workarounds. Training for midwives must include strategies that prevent skills fade.



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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth





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School of Nursing and Midwifery