Every day in the UK 11 babies are stillborn and research shows we still lag behind other wealthy countries when it comes to tackling the issue. Now more than 90 hospital trusts in England are to receive a share of £2.2 million in new funding to spend on maternity safety equipment.
It goes without saying that every stillbirth is a tragedy and that the loss of a child needs to be recognised as just that, a bereavement, rather than just a medical procedure. Remarkably despite having some of the best maternity care in the world, there is a huge disparity between the treatment offered by different hospitals in England. Some are falling woefully behind and this lack of consistency needs addressing urgently.
It is anticipated that hospitals will use the new funding wisely, including purchasing further equipment, such as scanners, to be able to monitor pregnancies and labour more closely, hopefully reducing the chances of a devastating outcome.
Some stillbirths are preventable and Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence specialists have worked with many couples who have suffered the loss of a child in these circumstances. For example, the team settled a case against a local hospital where CTG traces as the mother’s labour progressed revealed that the unborn child was experiencing cardiac problems. Although the baby's heart rate was decelerating, the midwife involved did not appreciate the significance of this. As a result, the child was stillborn. Better care could and should have prevented this outcome. A settlement was negotiated with compensation for both parents - the mother for her prolonged and painful labour and its devastating conclusion and both parents for the psychological trauma of the labour and their baby's death.
Alison Johnson, senior associate at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “The news that an additional £2.2 million of funding is to be made available specifically to tackle the tragic problem of stillbirths is of course to be welcomed. It may not, in reality, go that far spread among some 90 NHS trusts, but it is certainly a good start."