Sands has responded to The Ending Preventable Stillbirths research series that is published in The Lancet today (19 January 2016). It follows the research group’s 2011 series on stillbirths also published in The Lancet [1] , ranking the UK stillbirth rate at 33rd out of 35 high income countries.

Today’s research highlights huge variation globally in progress to reduce stillbirths, including in high income countries. In the UK the rate of progress in the reduction of stillbirth is revealed as being unacceptably slow, with a 1.4% annual rate of reduction as compared with 6.8% in the Netherlands.

The series concludes that most term and intrapartum stillbirths could be prevented with better care. In the UK, a recent enquiry revealed that 60% of term stillbirths are potentially preventable with improved antenatal care. [2] The research also highlights the hidden  psychological, social and economic impacts of stillbirth on parents, families, caregivers, and the wider public. 

The Ending Preventable Stillbirths Series was developed by 216 experts from more than 100 organisations, including Sands, in 43 countries and comprises five papers. One of these five papers is Stillbirths: economic and psychosocial consequences, part-funded by Sands.

Janet Scott, Research and Prevention Lead at Sands, said: “This latest Lancet Series reporting on stillbirth is a timely reminder of just how far we still have to go in the UK. The last Lancet Stillbirth Series, published in 2011, revealed the UK’s shockingly high stillbirth rate, ranking us 33rd out of 35 high income countries. Today’s report is a reminder of the unacceptably slow progress we have made in reducing those deaths.

“A significant percentage of stillbirths have been shown to be avoidable with better care. We know that 60% of term stillbirths in the UK could potentially be prevented simply by applying the minimum standards of antenatal care and guidance for mothers and babies. Enquiries in the UK show that mistakes in care continue to be made while too many units fail to investigate babies’ deaths robustly, meaning opportunities to improve care and save lives are lost.

“Additionally, mothers from more deprived backgrounds are far more likely to experience a stillbirth. This level of inequality must be urgently addressed.

“For the first time, research published today and funded by Sands as part of the Lancet Series has shown the significant economic cost of each stillbirth. Stillbirths are expensive, requiring more resource than a live birth, through loss of working hours and productivity, as well as practical costs relating to medical care, post mortems, funeral costs, and long term wellbeing and productivity.

“There is evidence too of the severe psychological and emotional impact of the death of a baby on the families left behind. The quality of bereavement care directly affects families’ long term psychosocial health, with good care lessening and poor care exacerbating negative consequences. Yet we know bereavement services are highly variable across the country and under threat as the NHS looks for savings.

“It is demonstrably cost effective to invest both in reducing stillbirth and improving bereavement care for families - the benefits will be felt throughout society as a whole.

“Following years of intense campaigning by Sands and others, Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt has declared an intention to reduce the number of stillbirths in England, as well as mothers and of babies who die neonatally, by 50% by 2030 and by 20% by 2020. Scotland has already demonstrated that this can be done, having achieved their target to reduce stillbirths by 15% by 2015. We believe stillbirths could be cut by a fifth right now by applying existing antenatal guidelines and reviewing care when things go wrong so that mistakes are not repeated. It is time for decisive action to end preventable stillbirth.”

Ends

Note to editors

[1] The Lancet Stillbirth Series 2011: http://www.thelancet.com/series/stillbirth

[2] MBRRACE-UK Perinatal Confidential Enquiry: Term, singleton, normally formed, antepartum stillbirth report 2015

https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/mbrrace-uk/reports

For further information, Sands interviews and case studies please contact the Sands press office on 07587 925 411 or 020 3598 1959/4910 or media@uk-sands.org.

For further details please contact the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine press office on press@lshtm.ac.uk or +44(0)2079272802.

About Sands

Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, was established by bereaved parents in 1978.

Sands supports anyone affected by the death of a baby; works in partnership with health professionals to improve the quality of care and services offered to bereaved families; and promotes and funds research and changes in practice that could help to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

Sands is a national organisation, with around 100 regional support groups across the UK.  Further information can be found at www.uk-sands.org.