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NHS not focused on home births

While home births have been proven to be as safe as hospital births, the NHS is not ready to meet demand, says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

A new study looking at death rates following recent births found no strong differences between home and hospital births.

Louise Silverton from the RCM said this research from the Netherlands, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics, was a "major step forward".

However, she added that the UK is focused on hospital births and needs restructuring to help more women give birth at home.

Ms Silverton said: "The NHS is simply not set up to meet the potential demand for home births because we are still in a culture where the vast majority of births are in hospital."

According to the RCM, an extra 5,000 full-time midwives are needed; but ministers have promised 3,400 midwives by 2012.

In 2006, out of 662,915 women, 18,100 had home births. This figure has been rising from a historic low of 0.9% of women having home births in 1988.

Research is now being carried out in England into the safety of giving birth in different settings, with a report due in 2010.

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Royal College of Midwives