previously blogged on stillbirth rates. However, I was shocked to read a report by the Times Health Correspondent Chris Smyth about stillbirth rates across the country. The NHS will be held to account if it does not reduce these rates, ministers promised yesterday after an investigation by The Times.  " />

Is the NHS failing to prevent Stillbirths?

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Expectant mothers must be given better information about warning signs and hospitals need to step up their investigations into why babies die, the Department of Health said. Dan Poulter, the Health Minister, who is also an obstetrician, said: “The Times has highlighted a crucial issue. Over the past decade or more there have been unacceptable variations in stillbirth rates across the country". From next year hospitals will have to provide a report on stillbirths.The investigation states that 1 in 200 babies are stillborn and 25% of these could be prevented. The investigation found the following:

-  Few hospitals have plans to cut the stillbirth rate (apparently, amongst the highest in the developed world);

-  The use of tape measures to screen most low risk women is felt to be extraordinary in the 21st Century;

-  Guidelines on measuring unborn babies routinely ignored even though these could save 800 lives a year;

-   No clear guidance given to women about what to look for re baby movements and hospitals unsure what to do when women present with concerns;

-   The exact number of deaths since 2009 is unknown due to delays providing data;

-   Patchy death investigations mean doctors often think that deaths could not have been prevented.

The report states that many problems are related to the placenta. Babies that do not grow well in the uterus are felt to be ten times more likely to be stillborn. Earlier identification of these babies could save their lives. Simple, consistent measuring at antenatal appointments with clear documentation could identify babies that are falling behind. Plans could then be put in place to monitor regularly or deliver earlier.

I am pleased that the government is taking this matter more seriously. It appears that simple measures can be taken to lower the stillbirth rate and prevent the pain and suffering that many bereaved parents have to go through, without really knowing why their baby died.

Patricia Wakeford

Associate - Clinical Negligence team

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