A leading clinical negligence lawyer has welcomed the the findings of a report showing a small decrease in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths, however, Sanja Strkljevic, associate solicitor specialising in maternity claims at Leigh Day, voiced concern that mortality rates are still higher than those reported by some other European countries.

The latest report published by the Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK (MBRRACE UK) showed that the incidence of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK between January and December 2014 showed variations in death rates across the country between 4.9 and 7.1 per 1000 births.

Ms Strkljevic said: “It is very troubling that women living in the poorest areas of the UK are over 50% more likely to suffer a stillbirth or neonatal death compared to births from the least deprived areas in the country.

There was also a reported higher incidence of stillbirths or neonatal deaths amongst black and Asian mothers. In some 46% of stillbirths the causes of death were unknown.”

According to the report the largest cause of death in the early weeks of life were complications following birth and congenital abnormalities.

Ms Strkljevic from the clinical negligence team at Leigh Day, welcomed the recommendations made in the MBRRACE report that all organisations should investigate individual stillbirths and neonatal deaths using a standardised process and independent multidisciplinary peer review as recommended in the Report of the Morecambe Bay investigation.

She said: “The requirement that all Trusts and Health Boards provide data which is complete, accurate and reported timeously is essential in the assessment of the quality of care and lessons to be learnt.”

“A post mortem examination should also be offered in all cases of stillbirth and neonatal death to identify the cause of death where possible, exclude potential contributory factors and improve the future pregnancy counselling for the parents.”

The report also recommends that in all stillbirths, the placenta should always be submitted for histological examination, preferably by a specialist pathologist. She says; “in my experience, there have been a number of occasions where the fact that the placenta was lost or destroyed without a histological examination has meant that the parents (and those caring for the mother and the baby) could not truly understand why the baby died in utero or shortly after its birth.

Ms Strkljevic concluded: “I support all the recommendations made in this report wholeheartedly. More needs to be done to explain why the rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK is still higher than in some other countries. The implication is that there should be better provisions in maternity care, only through proper understanding can we take the appropriate action.”