Hunt: NHS must do more to stop 80% of preventable stillbirths

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt says the NHS must do more to learn from stillbirths in order to ensure no parents have to bear the “tragic death or life-changing injury of a baby.”

The statement follows the announcement of a new maternity strategy from the government aimed at reducing the 80% of preventable stillbirths in the UK.

Although full-term stillbirths will be investigated by coroners, families who suffer stillbirth or life-changing injuries to their babies will be offered an independent investigation to find out what went wrong and why.

The research will be referred to the newly formed Health Safety Investigations Branch (HSIB), which will standardise cases in an effort to understand these tragedies.

Hunt explained the decision: “The tragic death or life-changing injury of a baby is something no parent should have to bear, but one thing that can help in these agonising circumstances is getting honest answers quickly from an independent investigator. Too many families have been denied this in the past, adding unnecessarily to the pain of their loss.

“Countless mothers and fathers who have suffered like this say that the most important outcome for them is making sure lessons are learnt so that no one else has to endure the same heartbreak. These important changes will help us to make ‎that promise in the future.”

These plans have been spurred by the discovery that 80% of full-term stillbirths and deaths of babies are avoidable, revealed in an MBRRACE-UK study.

Analysis of 78 of the 225 deaths in 2015 showed that one in four caused by staff delaying the delivery of a baby or failing to check a heartbeat came down to “staffing or capacity problems.”

HSIB will begin investigations from April 2018, using the Each Baby Counts work from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to indicate.

Keith Conradi, the organisation’s chief investigator, who is featured in the latest edition of NHE (Nov/Dec), commented: “Every one of these cases represents a tragedy for the family involved and deserves the professional safety investigation that HSIB can deliver.

“Through working with families and staff and building on the principles of national investigations, HSIB will report on what happened, why it happened and make safety recommendations to help improve maternity safety for the future.”

As part of the plans, the government has also brought forward its target of halving the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries from 2030 to 2025.

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