Statistics for perinatal and infant deaths for Scotland 2010 have been released  in a report from the Information Services Division of NHS Scotland.

The report’s finding that the stillbirth rate of 4.9 per 1000 births is lower than the rate reported for any year to date in the rest of the UK, is extremely welcome news.

The Scottish government responded swiftly to Sands’ 2009 report, Saving Babies Lives, and the petition which demanded a national strategy to address these ignored tragedies. An expert Stillbirth Sub-group was set up and tasked with improving care to reduce stillbirth rates, which previously had been the highest in the UK. Sands is part of this group. 

The rapid impact of these actions shows that prioritising these deaths at government-level can effect meaningful change and save lives. It demonstrates conclusively that stillbirths are not just one of those things but that many are potentially preventable. Sands applauds the Scottish initiative and would like to see these deaths, which devastate families, taken as seriously elsewhere in the UK.

Sands has cautionioned, though, that these latest figures are only one year’s statistics and that it wants to see the rates continue to fall. There are still persistent issues that mean stillbirth rates across the UK are among the highest in Europe. Units are still massively under-resourced and babies die as a result.  Until more research is carried out, clinicians still won’t be able to answer the devastated parent who asks why their perfectly healthy baby died in the final stages of pregnancy – a death that represents the majority of stillbirths.