Each Baby Counts sees slow progress

A REPORT from Each Baby Counts has concluded that there still remains a significant number of avoidable stillbirths, baby deaths and brain injuries occurring during term labour in the UK.

The programme, which is run through the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, looks at the results of local maternity investigations into stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries to understand and share lessons learned to prevent future cases. Its latest report analysed 1,130 cases of babies meeting the eligibility criteria, out of around 677,192 babies born at term in the UK in 2017.

It found 130 (12 per cent) stillbirths, 150 (13 per cent) babies born alive following labour but dying within the first seven days after birth, and 850 (75 per cent) babies who had severe brain injury. These figures remain similar to those reported in 2015 and 2016.

The report also found that the number of local reviews that contained sufficient information for analysis has grown year on year: 95 per cent in 2017 from 75 per cent in 2015. There were also slightly fewer cases where different care might have led to a different outcome (72 per cent compared to 76 per cent in 2015).

Further analysis found that the most commonly identified risk factors include a lack of timely recognition of women and babies at risk, communication problems, training and education issues, human factors and inadequacies related to the monitoring of the baby’s well-being during labour.

Detailed analysis of 986 fully completed local reviews revealed 36 per cent cases involved a failure to identify a high-risk situation, escalate appropriately and transfer a woman and/or baby in a timely way.

The authors state: “Successful clinical escalation of a woman and baby at risk of harm is essential. With the right medical intervention, at the right time, maternity care can ensure the safest possible outcome for a mother and her baby.”

The report recommends necessary improvements, including better team working and behaviour, addressing workload and workforce challenges, and improving communication among maternity teams.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “There are still too many avoidable baby deaths and brain injuries occurring during term birth in the UK – even one preventable case is one too many. We owe it to each and every one affected to find out why these deaths and harms occur, in order to prevent future cases where possible.

“All maternity units across the country want to provide the highest quality of care for women and their babies, and we urge them to take forward the important recommendations in this report.”