Linking maternity data for England, 2005‐06: methods and data quality
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Maternity Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data were linked to birth registration and NHS Numbers for Babies (NN4B) data to bring together some key demographic and clinical data items not otherwise available at a national level. This project added to earlier work involving linkage of birth registration records to NN4B records.
Birth registration and NN4B records were linked to Maternity HES delivery records and also Maternity HES baby records using the NHS Number or other indirect identifiers if NHS Number was missing.
Data quality and completeness of Maternity HES were assessed in relation to birth registration data wherever possible. For information not collected at registration, NN4B data were used to validate quality of Maternity HES.
Overall, 91 per cent of Maternity HES delivery records could be linked to the birth registration/NHS Numbers for Babies records and 84 per cent of Maternity HES baby records were linked.
In 2005 only 3 per cent of Maternity HES records had mother's NHS number missing, compared with 30 per cent in the NN4B dataset. This did not reflect the extent to which Maternity HES data items were missing or discordant.
Over a quarter of all linked Maternity HES records for singleton babies had one or more of the following data items missing: birthweight, gestational age, birth status, sex, and date of birth of the baby. On the other hand, for data items where information was stated such as birthweight, birth status, and sex for singleton babies, there was good agreement between Maternity HES and linked birth registration and NN4B data.
Although NN4B records the ethnic category of the baby as defined by the mother, and Maternity HES records mother's ethnic category, 87 per cent of the linked records had the same ethnic group.
Even though a good linkage rate was obtained, the method used will be simplified before data for 2007 are linked. To gain the maximum benefit from this linkage in future years, improvements are urgently needed in the quality and completeness of the data contained in Maternity HES.