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October 9th 2020

Birth Negligence

Baby Loss Awareness Week an important driver of change in how we support bereaved parents and campaign for better care

Baby Loss Awareness Week an important driver of change in how we support bereaved parents and campaign for better care

James Titcombe OBE, an ambassador of mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline, considers the impact of Baby Loss Awareness Week, which runs from October 9-15th.

James Titcombe OBE, an ambassador of mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline, considers the impact of Baby Loss Awareness Week, which runs from October 9-15th.

As a parent who has been through the heartbreak of losing a baby boy myself, Baby Loss Awareness Week is an annual event of great significance to me personally.

I know how important it is to know where to find dedicated support, and how talking about what you have been through can help

The aim of the week, which this year runs from October 9-15th, is to ‘break the silence’, to get people talking about what is a very difficult subject matter and to raise awareness about pregnancy and baby death in the UK.

In my role as an ambassador for the mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline, I have met many, many families who have lost babies and I have seen the impact it has not just on mothers, but also their partners, other children and their wider families, including grandparents.

I too, have of course felt the impact of that loss as well, as it is something which stays with you for life.

The loss of a baby puts a huge stress on all involved. Families and relationships are placed under huge strain, many sadly not surviving the pressures and strains it places upon their lives, with couples often going their separate ways in the years after.

It is why professional support is so important, and needs to go further than in presently does.

I personally know that fathers suffer hugely, often bottling up their own worries whilst also trying to be there to support their partners, and if they have other children already, be a rock for them too.

A dedicated awareness week can really help bring the issue to a wider audience, particularly as those affected begin to share their stories and experiences.

As a result, baby loss can be brought into the minds of those who maybe often don’t consider it, because thankfully they have not suffered or experienced it in their lives.

However, they are likely to know or come into contact with somebody at some stage who has, and having any form of understanding of the support people may require, can only be helpful.

Hopefully, Baby Loss Awareness Week will this year make more people aware of the excellent support services available, such as the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands UK, which leads the week’s activities.

This week is also being supported by countless other charities and organisations across the country who provide excellent support, counselling and assistance to families when they need it most.

If this week’s activities result in a rise in families talking and securing the support they need, it will have achieved its goal.

Week can highlight need for investigations, learning and change

One of the key aims of the week is also to drive change.

This is something I am hugely passionate about, as I know are many others, given the fact that latest figures show around 14 babies die before, during or soon after birth across the UK every day.

It is why I am an ambassador for Baby Lifeline, which since its formation in 1981 has raised funds to equip and support specialist training for most UK maternity units and their staff.

We work tirelessly to raise awareness of baby loss, and how through greater transparency, shared learning and increased investment, we can reduce the number of families suffering.

We have repeatedly called for greater transparency and honesty from hospital trusts when things do go wrong.

When my son Joshua sadly died nine days after being born at Furness General Hospital in 2008, we had to argue for an inquest to take place, and only after battling for the truth was it established that midwives repeatedly missed chances to spot and treat a serious infection that led to his death.

Had those errors not been uncovered, it would have been another tragedy. More questions would have remained unanswered. Lessons would not have been learned.Change would not have happened.

We must ask questions, we must investigate mistakes, and we must learn and improve.

It is this common goal of securing increased investment in equipment on maternity wards, standardised training and greater involvement of parents and families in investigations when things do go wrong that saw us establish a close relationship with Hudgell Solicitors.

We are delighted to say the firm will once again sponsor our National Maternity Safety Conference, which will be held for the second time next year.

That event provides a platform for NHS managers and leading consultant obstetricians, gynaecologists, anaesthetists and midwives to share real examples of maternity safety improvement and learning, helping to drive up standards.

Ultimately, we hope that leads to less people suffering the heartache of losing a baby. That is a result we all collectively want to achieve.

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