Sands, will give the parent perspective to a new national health programme focusing on preventing deaths and improving outcomes for mothers and babies in the UK.

The new team based in Oxford will lead the national Maternal and Newborn Clinical Outcomes Review Programme from April 2011, a body of work commissioned by the National Patient Safety Agency.

The programme will investigate the deaths of women and their babies during or after childbirth, and cases where women and their offspring survive serious illness during pregnancy or after childbirth.

The remit of the new team will incorporate the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal and Newborn Health, a programme of work which aims to look at avoidable factors in the deaths of mothers and babies.

Every day in the UK 17 families are devastated by the death of their baby either before or soon after they are born,” says Neal Long, chief executive at Sands. The stillbirth rate in the UK has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. With an increasing birth rate and an increasingly complex pregnancy population, the risks of a baby being stillborn or dying shortly after birth cannot be ignored. We believe some of these deaths are potentially avoidable and we are extremely keen to bring the parent perspective to this important work in understanding why some babies die.

Almost one in every 100 births in the UK leads to a stillbirth or newborn death and up to 100 women die every year during or just after pregnancy.

Every year 500 babies die as a result of events in labour. Since 1995, 61% of all clinical negligence payments to the NHS have related to claims arising out of birth. The total cost of maternity claims in 2007/8 was £163 million. Of any group of individuals being cared for under the NHS, these baby deaths and illnesses are arguably some of the most avoidable of all.

Experts involved in the new team hope to prevent more of these deaths and those illnesses associated with pregnancy or childbirth, and improve maternal and neonatal care for all mothers and babies.

The Confidential Enquiries into Maternal and Newborn Health were previously carried out by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE). The Confidential Enquiries have led to major improvements in the health and care of women and their babies but medical experts believe instances of poor care still exist and further improvements can still be made.

The new programme, called MBRRACE-UK (Mothers and Babies - Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK), will be jointly run by the universities of Oxford, Leicester, Liverpool and Birmingham, Imperial College London, Sands, and an Oxford GP.

It will be based at Oxford University’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) and will build on existing research projects, including the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) led by Dr Marian Knight at the NPEU, and the Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS) led by Professors Elizabeth Draper and David Field at the University of Leicester.

Dr Jenny Kurinczuk at the NPEU will lead the new team.

To see the full press release please click here »