Supporting parents at the toughest of times

To mark the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week, the Head of Maternity, Children and Young People at NHS England and National Maternity Safety Champion for the Department of Health, talks about what the NHS is doing in partnership with charities to make sure recently bereaved parents receive the support they need.

In the UK 11 babies every day are born with no opportunity to experience life.

The death of a baby is one of the most tragic events that anyone will ever experience and, as a midwife, I have witnessed first-hand the utter devastation to families.

Family and friends often struggle to find words of comfort for parents and their wider families during this painful, difficult and challenging time.

Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place from 9 to 15 October every year. It is led by Sands in collaboration with over 60 charities which support baby loss in the UK. It’s an opportunity for parents, their families and friends to acknowledge and remember their precious babies who have died.

This is why NHS England has been working with charities to develop the National Bereavement Care Pathway for Pregnancy and Baby Loss (NBCP). This work started in early 2017 and has been driven by the All Party Parliamentary Group on baby loss. This pathway will support midwives, nurses and doctors to continue to provide the high quality and sensitive care which is so needed at such a desperate time in a family’s life.

This work commenced in 2017 and I am pleased to say that there are now 32 pilot sites which are implementing the pathway. I am personally very proud to say the early reports highlight that midwifery champions are trailblazing and leading from the front.

The project evaluation will be published during Baby Loss Awareness Week and highlights the positive feedback from parents. We are also seeing great examples of bereavement care led by Maternity Voice Partnerships.

The National Bereavement Care Pathway and resources are freely available to download on the National Bereavement Care Pathway for Pregnancy and Baby Loss website.

The Parliamentary launch of Baby Loss Awareness Week is being held on Thursday in Westminster Hall, together with a service of remembrance for all babies.

Our commitment to support families who experience baby loss and our support of baby loss charities is paramount, as we continue to prioritise safe and personal care for mothers and babies.

Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent

Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent has vast experience in healthcare provision and is the first Chief Midwifery Officer in England.

She has worked as a midwife and a nurse and held senior positions in clinical practice, education, leadership and management including: Director of Midwifery and Nursing positions for Women’s and Children’s services at Imperial College Healthcare Trust & Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Academic roles have included: Senior Lecturer, Curriculum Leader, LME and Professor of Midwifery.

Jacqueline was appointed Chief Midwifery Officer in Spring 2019 at NHS England and NHS Improvement and is National Maternity Safety Champion for the Department of Health. She is also visiting Professor of Midwifery at Kings College London and London South Bank University.

Her experience has seen her leading and influencing national maternity standards and guidance. She also influences healthcare, nationally and internationally through research, education and publications and is frequently invited to speak at national and international conferences. She is a member of the British Journal of Midwifery editorial board and until recently was an active member of the Maternity and Newborn Forum at the Royal Society of Medicine.

She has joined the Tommy’s Charity National Advisory Board as Midwifery advisor, and the Women of the Year management committee. Her voluntary work currently includes Midwifery Advisor for the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and until recently a trustee.

In 2014 she received the HSJ, BME Pioneers award and in 2015 she was selected from over 100 nominations for inclusion on Nursing Times’ Leaders 2015 list that celebrates nurses and midwives who are pioneers, entrepreneurs and inspirational role models in their profession.

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