NHS England announced the Savings Babies’ Lives Care Bundle as part of the government’s ambition to halve the rate of still births by 2030.
The bundle brings together four key elements of care to help reduce stillbirth rates:
- Reducing smoking in pregnancy
- Risk assessment and surveillance for fetal growth restriction
- Raising awareness of reduced fetal movement
- Effective fetal monitoring during labour
Full details are available in the guidance note.
This care bundle is potentially a very important step forward in addressing the huge problems with quality of care, touching upon several of the issues that result in the UK stillbirth rate being unnecessarily high. The many people who worked to produce it must be applauded.
At the same time we should be very clear: there is nothing new in this “bundle” – all NHS trusts should already be doing these things. This is simply “the first time that guidance specifically for reducing the risk of stillbirth and early neonatal death has been brought together in a coherent package”. If NHS providers actually followed best practice at the time that it was introduced, then thousands of babes would be alive today.
The key thing therefore is not the fact that it has been launched, but whether the underling measures will ever be implemented in practice. NHS England state “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.” The package itself took years to deliver, and with 10 babies being stillborn every day, it is discouraging that NHS England are not mandating that all hospitals act immediately.