Winning war on tragic stillbirths

The number of stillbirths in Wigan's hospitals has almost halved in the last few years, new figures reveal.

Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 1:43 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 2:46 pm
Wigan Infirmary

Since 2013, the borough figure has reduced dramatically from 17 to just nine last year according to figures released under freedom of information laws.

But, despite this, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust has said more work needs to be done in order to further reduce the figure.

Pauline Law, acting director of Nursing at WWL, said: “In the last three years WWL have significantly reduced our stillbirths and neonatal deaths by over 50 per cent.

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“This is thought to be attributed to several local, regional and national initiatives, consultant and midwifery-led interventions all aimed at identifying mothers at high risk of having a stillborn baby.

“All stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries occurring due to incidents in labour are investigated at local level.

“In 2015 WWL began submitting data to the Each Baby Counts team who collect and analyse data from all UK units to identify lessons learned and improve future care. Recommendations on how to improve practice at a national level will then be made.

“Despite the fact we have significantly reduced our rates, we are also part of a number of initiatives to continue to try to reduce stillbirths and neonatal deaths further.

“WWL are one of 36 units from different parts of the UK taking part in the AFFIRM study, (Awareness of Foetal movements and Focusing Interventions Reduce Foetal Mortality) which is looking at the way maternity units respond to women with reduced foetal movement (RFM).

“WWL have implemented the accredited GROW training package and protocols which have been shown to increase the detection of reduced fetal growth. WWL will continue to implement any initiatives and improvements to care which will benefit mothers and babies within our borough.”

The figures also show that six of the nine stillborn babies in 2015 were premature, born before 37 weeks, compared to 11 of the 17 in 2013 and nine of 15 in 2014.

The figures come after a national campaign was launched by the stillbirth and neonatal charity Sands after it was revealed that the UK is ranked 33rd out of 35 high income countries.

Recent research published in The Lancet revealed huge variation globally in progress to reduce stillbirths, including in high income countries.

In the UK the rate of progress in the reduction of stillbirth is revealed as being unacceptably slow, with a 1.4 per cent annual rate of reduction as compared with 6.8 per cent in the Netherlands.

It concludes that most stillbirths could be prevented with better care. In the UK, a recent inquiry revealed that 60 per cent of term stillbirths are potentially preventable with improved ante-natal care. It also highlights the hidden psychological, social and economic impacts of stillbirth on parents, families, caregivers, and the wider public.