After years of campaigning, Sands is delighted to see the NHS in England recognising the need to reduce the number of stillbirths and early neonatal deaths. The NHS Outcomes Framework lists stillbirth reduction as a priority area, and the maternity Strategic Clinical Networks (SCNs) have started working regionally to bring numbers down.

NHS England is now working to build on this momentum, developing a package of items to help Trusts in England tackle stillbirth rates. A number of ‘task and finish’ groups have been set up to bring together the elements of the package; they’re looking at smoking cessation, improved use of cardiotocography (CTG – the monitor that traces the baby’s heart rate), reduced fetal movements and identifying babies whose growth is a concern. Sands is involved in several of these groups as well as the overall steering group. There is a real drive to get the package into hospitals and maternity units, and we will keep you updated on the progress of this work.

NHS England’s Director for Maternity and Children’s Health, Dr Catherine Calderwood, is passionate about reducing stillbirths and early neonatal deaths. She spoke at last year’s Sands/Bliss conference about the improvements that need to become standardised throughout the NHS, and this year she shared the stage with Sands’ Charlotte Bevan (Research and Prevention) and Ronnie Turner (Improving Bereavement Care) at the International Stillbirth Alliance Conference, talking about the importance of Sands’ collaborations with policy makers and healthcare professionals. Sands has worked for action on stillbirth reduction throughout the UK for many years. Charlotte Bevan, Senior Research Adviser at Sands said, “We used to sit in meetings with policymakers and there was a sense sometimes of slight irritation, as if people felt there was nothing really they could do. They would always return to the issue of improving bereavement care, while we would stick firmly to the belief that many of these deaths could and should be avoided,” she remembers. “But with persistence our message has got through, and now in meetings everyone knows that it’s unacceptable that so many babies die. We don’t have to persuade them. That’s a real step forward.”

NHS England’s main aim is “to improve the health outcomes of people in England”, and it does this in different ways, including overseeing the buying of health services and promoting the involvement of patients and the public in decisions about services. For more information, see www.england.nhs.uk

 

Many of the 12 Maternity and Children Strategic Clinical Networks have working groups focused on stillbirth reduction in their areas. They’re adopting different approaches to reflect local needs, but all are bringing together midwives and obstetricians to identify opportunities for better working.