Report by the Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMPA) suggests NHS not implementing NICE guidelines on multiple births

A new report published by the Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA) and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) suggests that many women in the UK expecting twins or triplets are receiving below standard maternity care.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) introduced guidance on multiple pregnancies in 2011 and quality standards in 2013.

However, the report by TAMBA and the NCT shows that only 10-18% of UK units have implemented the NICE guidelines, despite the fact that research shows that full implementation can reduce the rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths by up to one third.

The report reveals that twins and triplets are twice as likely to be stillborn when compared with singleton babies and almost five times more likely to die in neonatal care. Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the rate of stillbirths in multiple pregnancies rose by 13.6% between 2013 and 2014.

The NICE guidelines say that all women expecting multiple babies should have a named midwife, obstetrician and sonographer each of which should have specialist knowledge of multiple pregnancies.

However, the report published by TAMBA indicates that nearly one third of the 1,400 patients surveyed did not see a named specialist obstetrician.

Only 20% saw a specialist midwife and 28% saw a specialist sonographer. In the East Midlands the percentage of women who saw a specialist midwife was as low as 7.8%.

Overall, patients in the South East and West Midlands received the worst care, while those in the North East had the best.

Keith Reed, TAMBA’s CEO says

“this report pains a bleak picture with shocking variations in the standard of multiple pregnancy care across the country. The NHS England maternity review needs to address this issue as a matter of urgency to prevent babies’ lives being put at risk.”

Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Advisor at the NCT says:

“It’s completely unacceptable that over 80% of English NHS Trusts are not providing proper care for multiple births and thus putting babies’ lives at risk. Continuity of care should be provided for all parents but this is especially important for couples expecting twins and multiples, who must be provided with a skilled, named midwife as a matter of urgency.”

Lawyers in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day act for many clients who have experienced the tragedy of losing a baby. 

Ceilidh Robertson a lawyer in the team, said:

“We are extremely concerned that rates of stillbirths in multiple pregnancies appear to be rising. Evidence shows that implementation of the guidelines significantly reduces the number of deaths and we urge maternity units across the UK to put these into practice.”