Media, Mothers and The Shame of Britain's Stillbirth Statistics

11th February 2016 Clinical Negligence

Every single stillbirth is a tragedy and every case in which such deaths are caused in whole or in part by healthcare failings compounds the agony of parents' loss with frustration.

Although that bereavement is extremely personal, it is - according to one national newspaper 'shocking' at just how common these circumstances are.

The Sunday Times has launched a new 'Safer Births' campaign on the back of a study which has found that the UK saw more than 3,500 stillbirths during 2014 with a further 2,000 infants dying during their first week of life.

Researchers also discovered that the rate of stillbirth had fallen only slightly since the turn of the century, during which time other European countries had made far more dramatic progress in tackling the problem.

The 'paper believes that the number of stillbirths in England and Wales could be reduced by as much as 60% by applying what it has described as 'basic care guidelines on monitoring and intervention'. In addition, having a consultant obstetrician on duty throughout the day is, it claims, an essential requirement for all large maternity units.

These are steps which I wholeheartedly applaud. Myself and my colleagues in JMW's Clinical Negligence department have dealt with far too many examples of stillbirth and neo-natal death across the country in the recent years.

All too often, resourcing or departures from acknowledged clinical practices are factors which play a significant role in the outcome.

Anything which helps draw attention to the avoidable errors that result in the death of newborn children and, in some cases, their mothers too is a welcome development.

Despite a number of official inquiries into issues at individual NHS trusts, stillbirth has not been approached in a single, broad initiative. I believe that only by making nationwide, uniform advances can mothers feel truly confident as they near the end of their pregnancies and can large-scale loss of innocent lives be avoided.

 

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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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