A group of charities and professional bodies has developed an initiative aimed at improving the quality of care bereaved parents receive when their baby dies, whether during pregnancy or in infancy.
The National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) has been developed by a “Core Group” of national charities and organisations, including stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands, premature baby support charity, Bliss, and the Royal College of Midwives. The scheme will be piloted in 11 sites across England, with the hope that it will lead to improved care for parents suffering the loss of their baby.
Launching in October, the NBCP will trial new training, materials and guidelines for medical professionals, helping to improve the care and support parents receive in the aftermath of stillbirth or neonatal death. The new bereavement pathway will be used in cases where parents have lost a child during pregnancy, or up to 12 months after the birth, and is intended to provide equal, effective, high-quality, sensitive and safe care to all parents when their baby dies.
Across the 11 sites chosen as part of the initial NBCP rollout, medical professionals will work closely with the project team to implement the new bereavement pathway, improving the services offered to parents. The sites were chosen as they are broadly representative of capacity, specialism and geography, and will begin implementing the NBCP from October this year.
The sites include:
- Wirral University Teaching Hospital
- Liverpool Women’s Hospital Trust
- York Teaching Hospital NHS Trust
- Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust
- Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
- Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
- Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (Barnstaple Hospital)
- Medway (Maritime) NHS Foundation Trust
- West Middlesex, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital
- Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Trust — Queen’s Hospital
- Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust
Following the successful roll-out of the NBCP at the trusts listed above, the pathway will be introduced at a second wave of pilot sites in April 2018, before the scheme is launched on a national level in October 2018.
Care improvements welcome — but more is needed to prevent stillbirths
The quality of care bereaved parents receive can make all the difference in their recovery following the loss of a baby. While good care can never take away the pain and grief of stillbirth or neonatal death, it can help to improve the long-term outlook, giving parents the help and support they need to begin to rebuild their lives.
News of the NBCP’s launch comes just weeks after a damning report emerged highlighting the UK’s shocking record of stillbirths and neonatal deaths, in which over two dozen NHS trusts were found to have higher than expected rates of perinatal mortality. Every day in the UK, 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth, leaving thousands of parents facing the trauma of losing their child.
While the UK’s stillbirth and neonatal death rate is falling, it’s still higher than many other countries in Europe. There are also huge regional discrepancies in the number of stillbirths, suggesting that individual hospital trusts must do more to try and prevent infant mortalities.
We welcome the roll-out of the National Bereavement Care Pathway, and hope that it proves successful in delivering improved care for vulnerable parents left heartbroken by the loss of their baby. Stories like that of Louisa Holmes, who tragically lost her unborn baby and was let down by “inadequate” NHS procedures, show that receiving the appropriate aftercare is hugely important in helping parents recover from the trauma of losing a baby.
However, while improving aftercare for bereaved parents is a positive step, more is needed to tackle the issue of stillbirths and neonatal death in the UK, before it can affect expectant parents. Britain has a perinatal death rate higher than many other European countries with a similar population and GDP, so it’s vital that improvements are implemented sooner rather than later.
Hudgell Solicitors is experienced in holding healthcare professionals to account for substandard neonatal care. To find out how we may be able to help you, visit our birth negligence page or contact us today.