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More than 600 stillbirths each year could be prevented should better care be provided by the NHS, a new report suggests.
The report follows findings from a major project across 19 hospitals in England as part of the ‘Saving babies lives care bundle’ which has helped to save the lives of 160 babies according to an independent evaluation. These steps may help to reduce the number of midwife negligence claims pursued as a result of negligent care.
In a recent progress table of reducing the number of stillbirths, the UK was placed 114th out of 165 countries across the world, indicating that much still needs to be done to reduce these numbers further. It is estimated that approximately one in every 200 babies in the UK is born stillborn.
The saving babies lives care bundle focuses on clinical improvements on key areas such as reducing the number of pregnant women who smoke, which is a well-known factor to increase the risk of stillbirth and birth complications.
In addition, the care bundle focuses on specific steps to ensure better monitoring of a baby’s growth during the pregnancy and details actions to be taken by midwives to ensure those at risk of reduced growth are correctly monitored throughout the duration of their pregnancy. This includes identifying women that present certain risk factors that may increase their chance of having a low birth weight baby and ensuring they receive regular ultrasound scans in order to help detect where a baby may not be growing in as they should. This may also help to reduce the number of birth injury to baby claims as a result.
The report also highlights the importance of measuring and responding to reduced fetal movements and following guidelines to monitor these reduced movements going forward. It is hoped that this will help minimise the chances of a baby being stillborn and also help to reduce the number of birth injury claims as a result because steps can be taken such as the early induction of labour if required.
Although the saving babies lives care bundle has only been implemented in 19 hospitals so far, the success of reducing the number of stillborn babies in over 160 cases has led to the programme to be adopted across all hospitals going forward. It is hoped that the clear, detailed steps to deal with several elements that are thought to be the leading cause of stillbirths will help to reduce the number of medical negligence claims arising.
Commenting on the report, Dr Matthew Jolly, National Clinical Director for Maternity and Women’s Health at NHS England said:
“We know more can be done to avoid the tragedy of stillbirth and as we develop the ten-year plan for the NHS, we want to build on the progress we’ve made to make maternity services in England among the safest in the world.”