Background
Assessment of severe maternal morbidity using World Health Organization (WHO) ‘near‐miss’ criteria is gaining in importance as a valuable tool in the assessment of maternity care of women. Identification of cases allows an understanding of aetiology of severe morbidity and factors contributing to poor maternal outcomes.

Aim
The aim of this study is to determine the rate of maternal ‘near miss’ at Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) and the utility of the WHO near‐miss criteria as a tool for data collection in a regional Australian context.

Methods and Materials
Cases of maternal ‘near miss’ and deaths were prospectively identified over a period of 12 months using the WHO criteria.

Results
During the audit period, there were 2080 live births at Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH): 10 women presented with a ‘near miss’ and there was one maternal death. The maternal mortality ratio for the hospital was 48/100 000 live births, the maternal ‘near‐miss’ index ratio was 4.8/1000 live births, and the combination of maternal deaths and near misses gave a severe maternal outcome (SMO) ratio of 5.3/1000 live births. The main cause of obstetric ‘near miss’ was obstetric haemorrhage. Indigenous women and women from remote areas comprised a significant portion of ‘near‐miss’ cases.

Conclusion
The rates of maternal ‘near miss’ at RDH are consistent with other studies in the developed world. The WHO maternal ‘near‐miss’ audit tool helps health professionals understand and anticipate severe maternal morbidities, with the aim of improving maternal and perinatal outcomes.