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UK stillbirth rate one of highest in Europe

Lancet reports show lack of improvement in UK stillbirth rates compared to other countries

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18 April 2011

Solicitors in the clinical negligence team at Leigh Day & Co have welcomed coverage of a series of reports on stillbirth published in The Lancet today.

The report states that the UK had about 4,100 stillbirths in 2009, a rate of 3.5 per 1,000 births making it one of the highest in a high-income country. Although rates of stillbirths fell between 1995 and 2009, the UK has improved more slowly than others and fell in rank from 26th to 33rd out of 193 countries in those 14 years.

Professor Gordon Smith, head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Cambridge and one of the authors of the reports, spoke on Radio 4’s Today programme discussing approaches to reducing the current rates of stillbirth in the UK. He said that in 95% of cases the cause of stillbirths was not clear and that there was a “fundamental absence of knowledge” about what caused these deaths.

Considering this it is especially concerning to hear about the suspension of funding for the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) as part of the government’s recent programme of cuts. CEMACH publishes an annual Perinatal Mortality Report that has been widely acknowledged to have raised the standards for maternity care and has been described as “a  fundamental piece of work for ensuring high quality services for maternal and newborn health” by Tony Falconer, the president of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, in the BMJ earlier this month. He goes on to say “the confidential inquiries into maternal and perinatal deaths have provided critical information that has determined strategies in developing maternal health services since they began reporting in the 1950s”.

Frances Day–Stirk, the Royal College of Midwives' director of learning research and practice development, said:

'Stillbirth is not well addressed within healthcare goals. A number of stillbirths are avoidable if risk factors are identified and treated appropriately. The global challenge is in ensuring that midwives, doctors and health workers are aware of preventable  risks and minimise these risks, so that every effort is made to provide interventions; for example, the screening and treatment of infection.'

The authors of the reports called for properly funded and resourced maternity services that provide the 'highest levels of care with safety as the first priority, a truly 24-hour, seven days a week level of service and care'. Antenatal care needs to accessible, the authors said, and must able to meet the needs of the UK's increasingly complex maternal population.
Clinical negligence solicitors at Leigh Day have handled a number of stillbirth cases on behalf of mothers who received substandard medical care.  If you would like to speak to one of our medical accident lawyers please call us on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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