Confidential enquiries are a way of reviewing the quality of a type of care by studying anonamised patient cases over a period of time.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine looked in detail at the longest running National Confidential Enquiries - into maternal deaths, stillbirths and deaths in infancy, and patient outcomes and death.
‘[Researchers] could find little evidence that the enquires had improved safety, while the validity of their recommendations was limited,’ an article in BMJ Quality and Safety explains.
Over a 50 year period, 27 national confidential enquiries have been carried out, 17 of them in the UK. The annual volume of cases used to inform the enquiries ranged from four to over 6,000 and only three enquiries used comparative data.
It is time for a ‘rigorous evaluation and a reconsideration of the enquiries' contribution,’ as clinicians pay close attention to the studies’ findings, said the paper's authors.