Urgent NHS Reviews Are Needed to Tackle Shocking UK Stillbirth Rates

Medical experts call for urgent action after report shows up to 1,200 annual stillbirths


Medical experts at Irwin Mitchell are backing calls for urgent action to tackle Britain’s high rate of still births after a report by the charity Sands announced up to 1,200 could be avoided every year with many a result of failures in care by the NHS.

Britain’s record of stillbirths was condemned as a ‘national scandal’ in the Lancet last April as it was shown to be one of the worst in the developed world. Experts in the medical journal said more babies are born dead in the UK than almost anywhere else among the richer nations.

The report described the number of stillbirths in the UK as ‘shocking’ in response to the figure that 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day, a figure that hasn’t improved since the late 1990s.

The study urges a review of minimum levels of staffing and the right skills mix on wards after noting there are occasions when babies die because of failures of care in the NHS.

"Around 500 babies die every year because of a trauma or event during birth that was not anticipated or well managed," the report said.

"These deaths, when they occur at term, should never happen and almost always could be avoided with better care."

Shocking figures released from 2010 show 4,110 babies were stillborn, 1,850 babies died in the first hours or days of life, and 507 died aged between one and four weeks.

Irwin Mitchell is backing Sands calls for a range of measures to reduce the number of deaths, including research into tools that will help identify babies at risk and increased public awareness of the risks for expectant mothers.

Launching today’s report, ‘Preventing Babies’ Deaths: what needs to be done’, the Chief Executive of Sands, Neal Long, said the scale of baby deaths in the UK was “shocking”

“A third of stillborn babies - around 1,200 babies - are born late in pregnancy (after 37 weeks' gestation), at gestations when they might safely be delivered.

"But routine antenatal care is failing to detect far too many babies who need help."

Angela Kirtley, a personal injury expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: “Time after time we are contacted by families utterly devastated by the loss of a newborn baby through wholly avoidable circumstances and these latest figures demonstrate the need for immediate action to be taken and lessons learnt.

“Sadly the Newcastle Clinical Negligence team have dealt with a number of claims in the past where the death of a baby could have been avoided but continue to be approached by parents who have experienced similar tragedies far too often.

“Many parents are not interested in compensation but just want an explanation as to why their baby has died. Given the high number of stillbirths more research needs to be carried out as to how they can be prevented and resources need to be focused on ensuring staffing levels are appropriate and that midwives are properly trained.”