CAMPAIGNERS have urged the government to improve training for midwives in its plan to halve the rate of deaths among newborn babies in hospitals.
NHS trusts will share a £4 million fund in a bid to reduce stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths. The Departmentof Health has set a target to reduce the rate of lives being lost to 20 per cent by 2020.
The stillbirth rate among Asian women is 3.9 per cent compared to the national average of 2.7. Charities have welcomed the strategy but warn there must be a focus on nurses and midwives following guidelines to prevent more tragedies.
Roopal Shah suffered a stillbirth and now runs a monthly support group in Leicestershire for Sands, a stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
The mum told Eastern Eye: “They need to do something, too many people are suffering.
“I don’t think the money will go very far after allocating it between the different trusts. “There are things that can be done straight away, like midwives following basic training like measuring the baby’s size.
“If it’s small, they’ve got to follow that up, plot the measurements and see if there’s a pattern.” Shah joined Sands after her stillbirth in 2004 with her first child Dhillon.
She added: “Everything was normal. Two hours into the inducement, Dhillon gave a big kick and knocked the monitor off. “The midwife put the monitor back on but was struggling to get his heartbeat up.
Her colleague came and blamed the equipment, which I hear a lot. “In the scan room, it was confirmed Dhillon had died in the space of a few minutes. You hear family members say it was ‘God’s will’; you don’t want to hear it.
“Some women don’t want to talk due to family pressure maybe; they are crying inside.” Shock figures show 5,712 babies died before during or shortly after birth in the UK in 2013.
The government has pledged to look at the number of brain injuries that occur during birth by working with top consultants and urge hospitals to appoint maternity safety champions.
Judith Abela, acting chief executive of Sands, said: “It’s refreshing to hear the government will commit funds to this reduction; to better monitor babies in labour where poor understanding of and response to the baby’s fetal heart monitoring is often the cause of brain injury and death during childbirth.
“Supporting resources and training for midwives, and protecting the time they spend with women, as their first point of contact, is also vital.
“We also know from the huge variation in mortality figures across England that women living in poverty and from ethnic backgrounds are at increased risk.
“Every woman in Britain should be able to expect the same high standard of care from their local services, whoever and wherever they are.”
A report by the charity Bliss revealed neonatal services are struggling to cope with increased demand as two-thirds of units do not have enough specialist nurses.
It said 2,140 more nurses are needed to care for babies in England. Caroline Davey, chief executive of Bliss, said: “We welcome the commitment to reduce infant and maternal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth.
“While this is a positive step, Bliss’ recent report found that neonatal services in England are severely understaffed and overstretched, with 64 per cent of units nothaving enough nurses.
“In order to deliver safer care, investment is needed to tackle this critical shortage of staff caring for the sickest
Minister for care quality Ben Gummer said: “Although the stillbirth rate has decreased in recent years, it is still far too high and remains one of the worst in the developed world.
“(Our) ambition underlines our firm support for the NHS to deliver the very best and safest care across the country – through cutting-edge technology, specialist training and working closely with Royal Colleges to reduce stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries.”