Terrible report from baby loss charities shows increase in stillbirths | Fieldfisher
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Terrible report from baby loss charities shows increase in stillbirths

Arti Shah
Baby loss charities Sands and Tommy’s will publish a report this week stating that despite Government promises to halve the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in England by 2025, stillbirths are actually increasing in England despite having fallen in the past decade.

The reasons given are overstretched maternity services delivering substandard care and entrenched poverty and racial inequalities that the NHS is struggling to overcome.

Babies dying before and during delivery rose to just over four in every 1,000 births in 2021 and long-falling rates of neonatal deaths are also rising. There were 1.4 deaths of newborn babies for every 1,000 births in 2021, compared with 1.3 in 2020.

The Government, however – via a Department of Health spokesperson - refused to be drawn on these alarming statics in the Guardian, reiterating instead its commitment to the 2025 target and its £165m annual funding to improve NHS maternity service.

The charity report highlights the disturbing truth that is becoming all too familiar – that an increasingly under-resourced and overstretched system continues to put lives at risk in the worst possible way.

The truth is that nearly 40 per cent of English maternity services are classed as inadequate or requiring improvement, while 84 per cent of midwives consider higher staffing levels are vital to do their jobs safely. Patients also reported worsening experiences of maternity services since 2019.

It seems national standards of care are also too often not followed – for example, NHS figures reveal that 40 per cent of expectant mothers do not receive their first antenatal assessment within 10 weeks, where advice is offered to bolster the health of the mother and baby.

he charities also believe that the awful lessons highlighted by the East Kent and Shrewsbury and Telford investigations are simply not being acted upon. How utterly heart-breaking to hear for the families who went through the trauma of reliving their experience of stillbirth and neonatal death to contribute to the Ockenden inquiries.

With regard to inequalities in care, MBRRACE-UK, in collaboration with the University of Leicester, only last week released figures showing the risk of maternal death in 2019 - 2021 was almost four times higher among women from black ethnic minority backgrounds compared with white women.

The figures also suggest women from Asian backgrounds continue to be at higher risk than white women and that women living in the most deprived areas had a higher maternal mortality rate than women living in the least deprived areas.

Surely, the red flags raised by Ockenden and also maternity care inequality continuously highlighted by organisations such as FIVEXMORE cannot so quickly have been forgotten and allowed to sink into complacency?

Read how to pursue a stillbirth claim.

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