17 May 2016
Some Hospitals Failing to Investigate Baby Deaths, Report Claims
Some hospitals are failing to properly investigate the deaths of stillborn babies or those who die in the first month of life, a new report has found.
Experts behind a major study into Britain's high stillbirth rate said some hospitals carry out "cursory" investigations into whether lessons can be learned about the care of mothers and babies, while others fail to record data.
In nearly half of all stillbirths, the causes of death were classed as unknown.
According to the report, there were 4,633 stillbirths and deaths in the first 28 days of life (for babies born at 24 weeks' gestation and over) in 2014 - almost six deaths for every 1,000 births - down slightly on the 4,722 in 2013.
It found that many parts of the UK still have death rates that are too high and said hospitals should now carry out thorough reviews of each case.
Even when factors such as the age of the mother and social deprivation were taken into account, networks covering large parts of central, north-west and north-east England had a stillbirth rate and death rate in the first 28 days of life that was more than 10 per cent higher than the UK average.
Death rates varied from 4.9 deaths in Redridge, north east London, to 7.1 per 1,000 births in Hull.
The report by MBRRACE-UK - Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries Across the UK – called for uniform action by NHS maternity units when reviewing and recording causes of death for an insight into why there are such variations around the country.
David Field, professor of neonatal medicine at the University of Leicester, and one of the authors of the report, said: “If you look at different trusts, some do it in fantastic detail and some do it in a cursory fashion.
“In some trusts, it's done by two people, in others it's being done by a team by who really pull it apart.”
The Government says it has invested £500,000 in an improved process to review and learn from every stillbirth, as well as £1 million in training improvements for staff, £2 million into a new safety equipment fund – to be shared among 90 NHS trusts – and £365 million on perinatal mental health.
Despite health secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s pledge that the number of UK stillbirths will be halved by 2030, Government funding equates to just £3.60 per birth in England.
Judith Abela, acting chief executive of stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands, called the funding plans “woefully inadequate.”
“It’s clear that variations in care across the UK persist and the risk of your baby dying remains influenced by where you live and who you are,” she said.
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