Last month the Department of Heath announced £25 million capital funding was being made available to improve birthing environments. Further information about this scheme has now been published on the Department's website:

NHS providers are being invited to apply for funding to improve the birthing environment in the maternity units that need it most, so both mothers and fathers, and the staff who work in the units, can benefit from a more pleasant and appropriate environment. This scheme recognises that the NHS environments that women give birth in can have a big impact on the overall experience for both mothers and fathers and should provide for the safe care of mothers and babies in a comfortable, relaxing environment and enable one to one midwife care during labour and birth in privacy.

The scheme particularly notes that "funding applications will be encourage for projects to support women and families when things go wrong, for example dedicated accommodation for bereaved families who babies were stillborn or for families whose babies are in special care, high-dependency care or intensive care baby units."

The Minister, Dr Daniel Poulter, specifically mentions this in the foreward note that accompanies the Information and Criteria guidance for Trusts about this scheme. We have been building a positive relationship with Dr Poulter for the last two years and he is very supportive of Sands and our aims. We were delighted when he was appointed to his new post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health this autumn and this scheme is hopefully the first of many examples of the Department putting stillbirth issues high on their agenda, with funding to match.

The deadlines for Trusts to apply for funding is 31st December 2012 and we would encourage everyone to highlight it to their local maternity unit, and encourage them to consider making an application if it is feasible for them. Sands has already flagged this issue with local groups, so that they can contact their local maternity units. As there is a very tight timescale in place for applications, we would urge everyone to act as quickly as possible.

Full information about the scheme, along with a downloadable application form, can be found here. Please note, applications need to come direct from an NHS or Foundation Trust only and if they have any questions about the application criteria they can contact Karen Todd at the Department of Health on 020 7210 5413, email: