§ Mr. Onslow
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proportion of births in hospitals in England were induced, in each of the past five years.
§ Dr. Owen
Figures showing the number of births induced in National Health Service hospitals are only available for England and Wales jointly. In the last five years for which they are available induction was used in the following percentage of all hospital births:
1968 22.9 1969 25.1 1970 27.2 1971 29.6 1972 31.5
§ Mr. Onslow
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what were the rates of infant and maternal mortality in respect of induced births in hospitals in England in each of the past five years; and how these compare with the rates for natural births.
§ Dr. Owen
I regret that this information is not available. However, the infant mortality rate for induced births could be expected to be greater than that for normal births because a proportion of inductions are performed for medical reasons,552W where there are signs of fetal distress and complications are expected.
§ Sir G. Howe
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations she has received about the induction of childbirth for the sake of convenience; what reply she has given to such representations; to what extent, so far as she is aware, induction is currently being practised in such circumstances; and whether she is satisfied with current practice in this respect.
§ Mrs. Castle
In addition to the recent Questions in the House on the practice of induction I have received a number of letters, and I am well aware of the concern which has been expressed about induction for the sake of convenience, a concern which I broadly share.
In 1972, the latest year for which national figures are available, 31.5 per cent. of births in England and Wales were induced. There are no figures which would indicate the percentage of these undertaken for the sake of convenience, and, indeed, definitions of what is meant by this term vary.
There are of course reasons, not strictly medical but other than mere convenience, for which inductions take place, for example in rural areas with a scattered population and difficult access to hospital to ensure that the birth does in fact take place in hospital; or when the mother's circumstances are such that it is important for her to have the baby on or by a certain date.
Recent newspaper articles have alleged that some hospitals are inducing births so that the maternity departments can close during the Christmas period. I have no direct evidence of this, but I will look into any specific cases which are referred to the Department.
It is for individual doctors to decide, in the light of their professional judgment, whether induction is indicated in any particular case. I would expect the use of induction to be fully discussed and agreed between the woman and her doctor. It would, of course, be quite wrong for the hospital to put pressure on the woman to agree to induction purely for the convenience of the staff.
My Department will be undertaking a brief survey of the use of induction early 553W in the new year. When I have the conclusions of this I shall seek the views of the statutory advisory bodies. For the longer term I am commissioning a comprehensive survey of attitudes towards induction. Although this may take some 18 months to complete, I expect the results of a pilot survey to be available around August of next year.