Health Minister Jeremy Hunt announced today that the government will consult with a view to enabling coroners to investigate baby deaths when they are stillborn at full-term – currently they cannot do this and some parents have had to take legal action after they felt that their baby was wrongly classified as stillborn to avoid an inquest.
Mr Hunt emphasised the need for results to be shared to prevent future deaths and injuries. He said that the plans were part of a drive to halve deaths, stillbirths and injuries by 2025, but conceded that more staff would be needed to achieve this goal.
Stephen Jones, clinical negligence lawyer at law firm Leigh Day, said: “I welcome the news that the government is looking to change the law to allow coroners to investigate full-term stillbirths. Following a stillbirth parents are often desperately seeking answers – inquests can both help to provide some of those answers and identify patient safety concerns.
“The plans for the HSIB to take over investigations of deaths and serious injuries in babies is also welcome given the confirmation that those investigations will not follow ‘safe space’ principles. This means that families will be properly involved from the outset and trusts’ duty of candour will remain.
“The more scrutiny there is the better, and the more that light is cast on these deaths and serious injuries the more opportunity there is for learning. It is crucial that families can be involved in the investigations and feel confident that any mistakes uncovered will lead to lessons being learned and changes being implemented.”