Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

NHS efforts to cut still births lagging behind Africa

A recent global study has revealed that Britain is reducing still births at a lower rate than some of the world’s poorest nations, including Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At present, Britain is reducing still births at a rate of 1.4% as opposed to neighbouring European Countries such as The Netherlands who have achieved an annual reduction of 6.8%.

Over 2.6 million still births occur around the world each year, a great proportion of which are thought to be avoidable.  At present still births occur in just under 3 in every 1,000 births in the UK as opposed to just 1.3 per 1000 in the best performing country, Iceland.

Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said

there is a common misperception that many of the deaths are inevitable, but our recent study shows most still births are preventable… We already know which existing intervention saves lives”.

Richard Horton, editor of the publication that released the study, The Lancet, said

the idea of a child being alive at the beginning of labour and dying for entirely preventable reasons during the first few hours should be a health scandal of international proportions.”

Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s Health Secretary, has made a promise to half still births rates by 2030 and is taking steps to ensure that hospitals investigate still births more rigorously and highlight where improvements can be made to prevent re-occurrence.

Still births can be caused by multiple factors, however many are easy to spot and avoid. Inadequate blood flow from the placenta to the foetus is often cited as a common cause for early still births, but is one that can be treated if earlier scans are performed on mothers. St Georges Hospital in London has already begun to offer scans at 20 weeks. As a result it has noticed a drop in still births by 50% in just 3 years. Unfortunately, many other hospitals within England and Wales only provide these 20 week scans to mothers who are considered at particular risk, despite the cost of each scan being around £15.

Unfortunately, Clarke Willmott’s specialist clinical negligence team are frequently instructed in birth injury cases, including cases relating to still births where the mother and father have suffered deep psychiatric reactions to the avoidable loss of their child. Frustration at the lack of thorough investigation and openness about mistakes that lead to still births lead many parents to take legal action.

If you, or anyone you know wish to discuss a case relating to a birth injury please contact our specialist team on 0800 316 8892.