Stillbirth Prevention Strategy Improvements ‘Must Be Top Priority’

Medical Law Experts Call For Clear Action On New Concerns

28.11.2012

The NHS and the Government must work together to quickly and comprehensively address the massive concerns raised about the measures in place to prevent stillbirths, according to medical law experts worried by findings in a national newspaper.

According to an investigation by The Times, just six out of 144 hospital trusts in England have specific plans in place designed to reduce the number of stillbirths. The research suggested that the introduction of a clear prevention strategy may mean that a quarter of stillbirths could be avoided.

It also found that some of the NHS Trusts approached over the issue were relying on tape measures to understand the growth of babies in the womb, with the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society describing the practice as “extraordinary”.

Concerns were also raised about whether hospitals were recording stillborn deaths in an accurate manner.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist team of medical negligence lawyers represent patients whose children have been stillborn as a result of medical professionals failing to act and provide the necessary treatment and support.

Guy Forster, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell who has acted for families who have suffered in this way for many years , said: “The findings of The Times investigation are hugely concerning and have only served to highlight the massive concerns about the measures the NHS has in place to address stillborn rates.

“Comprehensive guidance on preventing stillbirths is clearly needed and we would urge the Department of Health and the NHS to work quickly to determine a set of standards that all Trusts need to adhere to.

“This should also go hand-in-hand with a drive to improve data on this issue, as inadequate information only makes it more difficult to fully recognise the extent of the problem and also assess trends which should be acted upon.

“The huge trauma that families face when they lose a child in this manner simply cannot be underestimated, yet these findings only serve to suggest that more could and should be done to tackle this issue.”

Forster, who is based at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, added: “The invaluable work that the NHS-funded Perinatal Institute in the West Midlands has been doing in looking at issues such as better monitoring of fetal growth has already made a huge impact into stillbirth rates across that region.  It is vital that all areas of the UK have firm plans to tackle this issue in the same way.

“We hope that a clear roadmap of action can be formulated which will ensure stillbirth rates are reduced and unnecessary deaths prevented.”