Perhaps the most simple changes to maternity care to reduce the number of baby deaths was proposed by Professor Ranjit Akolekar, Consultant in Fetal Medicine and Obstetrics, Medway NHS Foundation Trust. His view was that in addition to the two scans performed at 12 and 20 weeks, the NHS should introduce a third scan at 35-37 weeks to help identify and therefore plan for the likely high risk pregnancies rather than leaving mothers for half their pregnancy without a further scan.
Prof Akolekar also recommended national standard checks on the health of the placenta and umbilical cord in all pregnancies. This could include screening for pre-eclampsia at the 12-week scan (a test similar to Downs Syndrome screening); and checking cervical length at the 20-week scan so that treatment at that time can be provided where needed. An additional check he would recommend would be to use uterine artery Doppler scanning to check for placental dysfunction to identify earlier before it causes damage.
A common theme from the parents who talked about their traumatic experiences of loss was not being listened to by medical practitioners and feeling blamed for what happened.
Their struggle to find answers compounded the harm of losing their baby. The lack of compassion and obfuscation that followed their understandable enquiries chimes with the work we do on behalf of clients pursuing clinical negligence claims.
Keynote speaker Dr Bill Kirkup, Chair of the inquiries into East Kent and Morecombe Bay maternity failures, said he thought the Duty of Candour that hospitals owe to patients was not working well enough in some Trusts. His concern was it had become more of a tick box exercise rather than a guiding principle that should underpin a Trust's response to incidents of loss and/or harm.
Other speakers at the conference talked about the urgent need for better bereavement training for midwives and all maternity staff to provide dignity and care for parents who lose a baby, not least the provision of soundproofed bereavement rooms away from other newborns.
Part of the important work of Abigail's Footsteps is to install in as many hospitals as they can innovative cooling cots to enable parents whose babies have died to spend more time with them.
As we continue to act for parents who have experienced baby loss and also for those bringing up babies injured at birth, we are committed to continuing to support the work of Abigail's Footsteps, the Willow’s Rainbow Box, the Twins Trust and the Neonatal Nurses Association, all present at the conference.
Read about our birth injury claims and hear from clients.
Photo credit: Rachel Luckhurst Photograpy
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