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New drive to cut stillbirths

Stillbirth rate in the UK double that of nations with lowest rates

Mark Gould

Monday, 21 March 2016

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NHS England has published new guidance that aims to halve the rate of stillbirths in England from 4.7 per thousand to 2.3 per thousand by 2030.

There are currently around 665,000 babies born in England each year, but there are over 3,000 stillbirths. Despite falling to its lowest rate in 20 years, one in every 200 babies is stillborn in the UK, more than double the rate of nations with the lowest rates.

The new guidance, Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle, is the first specifically for reducing stillbirths and has been brought together in a coherent package.

It will support commissioners, providers and professionals in making care safer for women and babies. NHS England says there is around a 25 per cent variation in stillbirth rates across England. The guidance addresses this variation by bringing together four key elements of care based on best available evidence and practice in order to help reduce stillbirth rates.

It focuses on four key interventions:

  • Reducing smoking in pregnancy
  • Enhancing detection of foetal growth restriction
  • Improved awareness of the importance of foetal movement
  • Improving foetal monitoring during labour

Care bundles bring together a small number of focused interventions in order to bring about improvement. They exemplify known best practice in areas where current practice is unacceptably variable. Evidence shows that greater benefits are achieved at a faster pace when implementing those interventions together.

Building on existing clinical guidance and best practice, the guidance was developed by NHS England working with organisations including the Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, British Maternal and Foetal Medicine Society and Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.

As part of this, an information and advice leaflet on reduced foetal movement is being launched and will be provided to all women by week 24 of their pregnancy. The leaflet will contain clear messaging consistent with national guidelines.

The move follows publication of the recent National Maternity Review report, which set out wide-ranging proposals designed to make care safer and give women more control.

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