We have today published the new Sands Audit Tool for maternity services: Caring for parents whose baby has died.

The Audit Tool, the first of its kind for maternity services in the UK, has been developed to help those responsible for commissioning and providing services to assess the quality of care they provide to bereaved parents, and identify any improvements that are needed.

Accredited by the Royal College of Midwives, the Audit Tool is based on standards set out by Sands in its widely acclaimed Guidelines for professionals (2007) and by a range of professional organisations including the Royal College of Obstetricians, the Royal College of Pathologists, NICE and the Human Tissue Authority.

Judith Schott, co-author of the Audit Tool and Improving Bereavement Care Manager at Sands, explains why the needs of bereaved parents are at the heart of the document. “Every day in the UK, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. The care parents receive when their baby dies cannot remove their grief and pain. But we know that poor or insensitive care can exacerbate their distress both in the short and in the long term. It is therefore extremely important that parents receive the best possible care at this crucial time.

 The Sands Audit Tool will help maternity service managers and staff to ensure that bereavement care services and processes in place at any given hospital are as good as they possibly can be.”

The Audit Tool has been sent to all Heads of Midwifery, Trusts, and Health Boards. Sands is recommending that each commissioning body or maternity unit decides how they can use the tool most effectively. For example, the audit might be carried out by the maternity unit manager(s), a bereavement care midwife, or the Maternity Services Liaison Committee. Sands hopes that units will also involve their local Sands support groups in providing feedback on the care parents have received and suggesting ways in which care can be improved.

Judith continues: "Whoever carries out the audit, it is essential that managers and senior staff fully support it and are committed to acting on the findings.”

Sands recognises that while some improvements identified by the Audit Tool may carry a major cost, small changes in the way care is organised and provided can often make a huge difference to parents’ experiences.

Although more expensive changes may be difficult to implement in the current financial climate, they should not be ignored. We fully appreciate that they may not be possible immediately, but they will never be made unless the need for them is recognised.” Judith concludes.

Please feel free to download a copy of The Sands Audit Tool for maternity services by following the link.