The last year has seen stillbirth prevention rise up the agenda in Wales, thanks to lobbying from Sands and Welsh bereaved parents. Sands gave written and oral evidence to the Welsh Health and Social Care Committee’s recent National Enquiry into Stillbirths, which is due to report very soon.

Meanwhile Sands is playing a leading role in a new initiative within the Welsh Department of Health which is focusing on how to reduce stillbirths. Titled the Welsh Initiative for Stillbirth Reduction (WISR), it is a working group of Welsh experts tasked with identifying and implementing improvements in care which could lead to fewer babies dying.

The group is led by Mr Philip Banfield, Consultant Obstetrician in North Wales, and includes two Sands representatives, Janet Scott, Research & Prevention Manager, and Shirley Gittoes from Sands Welsh Network. They are working alongside obstetricians, neonatologists, public health experts, midwives, health visitors, perinatal pathologists and representatives from the Welsh government, Welsh Department of Health and the All Wales Perinatal Survey.

The group operates within the Maternity Collaborative (which is a strand of the Welsh 1000 Lives+ healthcare improvement programme). This pre-existing collaborative network is the perfect route for disseminating the group’s new guidance. The collaborative approach, working in tandem with maternity staff from across Wales, ensures the understanding and buy-in of the people who deliver maternity care and results in realistic goals.

The first training day was held in Cardiff on 12th October and was attended by over 70 maternity professionals from all of the seven Welsh Health Boards. Issues identified as priorities by the WISR working group were presented for discussion. Janet Scott from Sands represented parents, delivering a presentation entitled ‘What do parents want us to do?’.

The day included: 

  • Raising awareness of stillbirth amongst pregnant women and maternity health professionals
  • Better management of decreased fetal movements
  • Improving detection of poor growth
  • Improving the process of perinatal review
  • Further developing data collection on stillbirths
  • Increasing up-take of perinatal post mortem

The WISR group meets every six weeks and the Maternity Collaborative runs phone conference training sessions monthly between quarterly training days. The WISR programme aims to continue for around 2 years and the group is determined to make a real difference to stillbirths in Wales.