A coalition of more than 60 charities working to prevent baby deaths and pregnancy loss and to support families is today urging all NHS Trusts and Boards across the UK to improve bereavement care for parents.
The call comes at the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2018 (9-15 October) when bereaved parents and their families and friends, unite across the world to commemorate their babies’ lives.
Baby Loss Awareness Week 2018 also marks the roll-out of the National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP), a partnership between government, charities, and the NHS, that sets out the standards for providing excellent care to anyone affected by pregnancy and baby loss.
An evaluation of eleven NBCP pilot sites in England found that more than three quarters of healthcare professionals who were aware of the Pathway said that bereavement care had improved in their trust during the trial period. This ground-breaking programme is being made publicly available for the first time and is set to transform bereavement care for thousands of families each year across England.The Scottish government has also pledged funding and support over the next two years, with a plan to pilot, implement and embed the Pathway across Scotland.
For many years, the bereavement care offered to parents has remained worryingly inconsistent and dependant on where parents live, at what stage of pregnancy or birth their loss occurs, and whether individual healthcare professionals are equipped to respond.
Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death charity), said:
“Bereavement care for anyone who has suffered a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, or the death of a baby, must get better and we believe we have the solution. The roll-out of the National Bereavement Care Pathway for pregnancy and baby loss is a crucial step towards ensuring that all health professionals in the UK can provide excellent bereavement care. I urge all NHS Trusts and Health Boards to adopt the Pathway and ensure care around baby loss is offered in line with these standards.
Good bereavement care is rooted in simple acts of kindness and respect, giving a family whose world has fallen apart the time they need with their baby, and minimising anything that could add to their suffering. It cannot remove parents’ pain and grief, but it can help them through this devastating time. In contrast, poor care can significantly add to a family’s distress.
I hope that the public, health professionals, and politicians alike will back this vital programme so that every family heartbroken by the death of their babies is offered the very best bereavement care and support, wherever they live in the UK, when they need it, for as long as they need it.”
The NBCP standards include:
- All bereaved parents given opportunities to spend time making memories with their precious babies;
- A dedicated bereavement room available and accessible in every hospital
- Bereavement care training for all staff who have contact with grieving parents
- Support for healthcare staff dealing with the trauma of baby loss so that they are able to care for bereaved parents
A survey of bereaved parents who received care through the NBCP pilot sites found that 98% agreed they were treated with respect and 96% felt they were communicated with sensitively.
One parent said:
“I have three other children and although this was the worst possible outcome from a delivery this was my nicest birth and the midwives were so wonderful. You made an awful situation the best it could possibly be. For this I will be forever grateful. Thank you.”
Baby Loss Awareness Week helps raise awareness of how pregnancy and baby loss affects thousands of families each year across the UK. It is a unique opportunity to help families remember their babies, whether it be in public or private, and feel less isolated and alone by giving them the opportunity to join with others.
An animation been created to help increase understanding amongst people who may not have experienced pregnancy or baby loss – in a sensitive yet clear, powerful and meaningful way.
Throughout the Week, landmark buildings across the UK will be lit up pink and blue – the colours of Baby Loss Awareness Week.
The Week culminates in a global #WaveOfLight at 7pm on 15 October when candles will be lit across the world to remember all those babies who have died. Anyone can join a digital Wave of Light from 7pm on 15 October by posting a photo of their candle to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #WaveOfLight.
For further information on Baby Loss Awareness Week 2018 visit: babyloss-awareness.org and follow #BLAW2018 on social media