Every day in the UK eleven babies are stillborn and a further six die soon after their birth. Sands is the UK's leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity, working to raise awareness of the devastating impact of these deaths. For the past decade Sands has been highlighting the UK's persistently high stillbirth rate, arguing that many of these deaths could be avoided, and demanding change. In recent years successive governments have begun to respond to our calls for action: preventing avoidable stillbirths is now an NHS priority and Sands is collaborating with health care providers and policy makers across the UK to implement changes in maternity care which could save lives. While the momentum is building to tackle and reduce avoidable deaths there is still much to do.
Several obstacles stand in our way, not least an all too common misconception that a stillbirth is somehow an unavoidable tragedy. This isn’t true: at least one in four deaths could potentially be avoided with better care. But quality of care can vary hugely across the UK. All regions need to implement best practice in identifying and acting on problems in pregnancy and making sure everything possible is done to learn from deaths when they happen.
Resources and commitment are needed to improve the things we already do and ensure the care every mum and baby receives is the best it can be. And more research funds are needed to develop new approaches to reducing the numbers of babies dying, and to demonstrate which have real benefits and should be part of guidance on maternity care.
Panorama highlights some urgent issues around stillbirth, above all the need to improve how we identify babies who are at risk. Sands welcomes the attention this focuses on these heart-breaking deaths. Sands is pleased to be a member of several government-backed initiatives across the UK focusing on reducing avoidable deaths, but there is no room for complacency.
Neal Long, Sands CEO said, “It is crucial that stillbirth reduction is kept high up on the health agenda and that the promising initiatives of recent years to improve care are pushed through to completion urgently. New possibilities for better treatment must be pursued without delay. Every baby's death is an unimaginable tragedy and we are passionate in our determination to ensure no family should be left suspecting their baby’s death might have been avoided if things had been done differently.”