Dignity and Determination bring results after stillborn tragedy
The UK has one of the worst rates of stillborn babies in the developed world. Three quarters of a million babies are born annually here. Placental failure can cause the death of 1 in 200 of those babies. For those who survive, placental failure also causes oxygen starvation, brain damage and a limited life expectancy when it is not picked up.
The Panorama programme ‘Born Asleep’ shed further light on the need to improve foetal monitoring techniques in the NHS. Yet, as the programme shows, the knowledge to do something about this is already there.
Doppler scanning and prenatal monitoring through what are known as customised growth charts (CGCs) have been carried out at some NHS trusts with spectacular results. The monitoring is not difficult, requiring only a simple adjustment in the way ante natal care is delivered. The cost – £15 per person for the Doppler scan and 50p per growth chart – is hardly astronomical either.
CGCs have already resulted in the reduction of stillbirths and increased detection of FGR in other areas of the country as the programme shows.
I am particularly interested in this issue, thanks to an inspirational couple David and Parminder who are campaigning hard to get changes implemented in London so, the tragedy which befell them, does not happen again.
Their daughter Jasmin was born in November 2013. Placental insufficiency went undetected pre-natally by the hospital, in which they had entrusted their prenatal care.
Jasmin was a fighter and confounded all medical predictions and lived for over 4 months.
David and Parminder have always insisted that something should be done to monitor babies in the womb. That way a planned Caesarean birth can be scheduled in to prevent or at least minimise problems.
The hospital in which their daughter received treatment has now re-trained its ante-natal staff to make sure they are all using the same method to measure mums-to-be.
What happened to Jasmin is being used by the hospital (with the parents’ permission) as a cautionary tale. The hospital has been involved in a pan-London group, where hospitals across the area get together to look at changing and improving their care plans.
Over the last 10 years, however, if not longer, London has failed to reduce numbers of stillborn babies or increase detection of foetal growth restriction, which is one of the biggest causes of stillbirth.
The hospital handling Parminder’s prenatal care is, though, now committed to putting CGCs in place. It has just begun talking to the same hospital team, which has very successfully implemented this in the West Midlands. The team in the West Midlands will train a select group of staff who will then roll it out more widely.
The London hospital, which has now committed to CGCs has decided to call it the Jasmin Project.
David and Parminder’s dignity and determination is having results here. I am proud to be able to say that I know them.
Marcus Weatherby, Partner, Pattinson & Brewer