The Department of Health has disputed claims by the National Childbirth Trust that most expectant mothers still have no choice but to have their babies in hospital.
The NCT said 96 per cent of women still do not have the choice of a home birth with midwife, a local midwifery facility or an obstetric unit, despite a 2007 government pledge to give all women in England a choice of places to give birth by the end of this year.
NCT chief executive Belinda Phipps said: “Although in a few cases more investment in maternity services will be needed, with a simple re-thinking of the way their maternity services are delivered, every trust and board can ensure choice is available to all women.”
DH national clinical director for children, young people and maternity services Dr Sheila Shribman said: “A Healthcare Commission review of maternity services in England published in 2008 used the same 2007 data and found that 81 per cent of women said they did have a choice of place of birth, and 57 per cent said they were given the choice of having their baby at home.
“We reject the findings of this report, which uses flawed methodology and out of date data. The NCT defines choice based on the percentage of home births and the distance of maternity units in some areas of the country.
“Both of these definitions are unrealistic and ignore the most important evidence - whether a pregnant woman was actually offered choice or not.”