In November 2014, Secretary of State for Health announced a new ambition to reduce the rate of stillbirths by 50 per cent in England by 2030, with a 20 per cent reduction by 2020.
Despite falling to its lowest rate in 20 years, one in every 200 babies is stillborn in the UK; this is more than double the rate of nations with the lowest rates.
There are currently around 665,000 babies born in England each year. But there are over 3,000 still births. This new guidance – called Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle – is part of a drive to halve the rate of still births from 4.7 per thousand to 2.3 per thousand by 2030, potentially avoiding the tragedy of still birth for more than 1,500 families every year.
While the majority of women receive high quality care, there is around a 25 per cent variation in the stillbirth rates across England. This presents us with opportunities to make improvements spanning both public health and maternity care services in order to make an overall improvement.
The Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle addresses this variation by bringing together four key elements of care based on best available evidence and practice in order to help reduce stillbirth rates. It will support commissioners, providers and professionals in making care safer for women and babies.
Reducing stillbirth continues to be a priority for the NHS. It is one of the mandate objectives from central government and is included in the NHS England Business Plan 2015-16. It will also be included in the 2016-17 business plan, as part of a wider objective to implement the recommendations from the National Maternity Review, published on 23 February 2016.
Saving Babies’ Lives is designed to tackle stillbirth and early neonatal death and a significant driver to deliver the ambition to reduce the number of stillbirths, bringing four elements of care together:
- Reducing smoking in pregnancy
- Risk assessment and surveillance for fetal growth restriction
- Raising awareness of reduced fetal movement
- Effective fetal monitoring during labour
The package was developed by groups brought together by NHS England, including midwives, obstetricians and representatives from stillbirth charities. Though the NHS already follows much of this best practice, this is the first time that guidance specifically for reducing the risk of stillbirth and early neonatal death has been brought together in a coherent package.
The care bundle approach is now a recognised and familiar approach to improvement across the NHS. Care bundles typically bring together a small number of focused interventions designed to effect improvement in a particular disease area, treatment or aspect of care. When implemented as a package, evidence shows that greater benefits are achieved at a faster pace than if those improvements had been implemented individually.
The care bundle will now be tested and piloted by volunteer maternity care providers and NHS England will then consider how to support implementation nationwide, as part of the National Maternity Review.