MBRACE-UK Report on Stillbirths

Over half of all stillbirths are still unexplained and every day in the UK around three families suffer the death of their baby at term and before labour begins.

Over the past 10 years there has only been a small reduction in the stillbirth rate for the UK and this remains high in comparison to the rest of Europe.

Such statistics are considered further in a recently published report by MBRACE-UK. The report considered at 85 stillbirths in detail and found care could have been better in at least two-thirds of cases. The report also identified critical gaps in care in 50% of term stillbirths and focused upon three key issues:

  1. A failure to identify and recognise high-risk pregnancies: This is particularly relevant with regards to the risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy. It is surprising that two out of three women who were at a recognised risk of developing diabetes were not offered testing. Further details about diabetes testing in pregnancy can be found here.
  1. A failure to monitor and measure foetal growth: In nearly two thirds of cases, national guidance for screening and monitoring growth had not been followed.
  1. A failure to monitor foetal movement: The report found that almost half of the women reviewed had contacted their maternity unit concerned that their baby’s movements had changed. In half of these cases, there were missed opportunities to save the baby.

The report also highlights the investigations that should be carried out after a stillbirth to understand why the baby has died. Parents are entitled to expect an honest and considered assessment of the events that led to the death of their baby due to a stillbirth. Inexplicably, these reviews are not being carried out in almost three-quarters of cases and parents are being denied the opportunity to know whether or not the quality of care that they received can be associated with their baby’s death.

It is disappointing to see that the key lessons raised in the enquiry are very similar to those identified in the last enquiry into stillbirths carried out in 1996/1997. Marcus Weatherby Clinical Negligence Partner at Pattinsons and Brewer said, ” It is surprising that the managers in the NHS have not previously sought to learn lessons from these sad events to improve future care. Our experiences with clients show that better continuity of care, staffing resources and funding for midwives would benefit patients. The question is whether the government cares enough to fund this.

We have acted for a number of parents who have lost their loved ones due to negligence at birth and we know all too well the life changing affect that this can have. It is promising that the report has provided clear recommendations for action at all levels of the health service and it is hoped that the report will ensure that mother’s and babies receive the best quality of care available.

To read more about the report, please click here.

Colette Payne is a Clinical Negligence Solicitor in Pattinson and Brewer’s Personal Injury and Medical Negligence Department.

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