Staff who organise and run maternity units contribute many statistics to their health authority but do not find it easy to obtain information about their unit from these statistics. Data that are collected routinely, however, can be used to provide each unit with a graphical profile of its activity and resources. The method described here was derived from the personality profiles used by psychologists and allows staff in one unit to assess the outcome, activity, and use of resources in their unit in relation to similar units, to explain some of the differences when these occur, or to highlight potential problems. Examples are taken from a study of maternity units in the West Midlands. It is concluded that the technique can indicate potential problems and usefully be adopted by those who monitor maternity care in districts or hospitals.
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