Hospitals across England have been awarded a share of government funding pot worth over £2.2m to invest in new maternity safety equipment, as part of efforts to bring down the stillbirth rate.
More than 90 trusts have been chosen to receive a slice of the money to buy equipment such as ultrasound machines and monitoring equipment, in order to try and detect and address problems earlier.
“By ensuring midwives and doctors have the right equipment we can further improve the safety and care”
The initiative forms part of the government’s efforts to halve the number of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries occurring during or soon after birth.
The money was first announced in November when health secretary Jeremy Hunt set the “ambition” to reduce the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths in England by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030.
The announcement of the funding followed a report by MBRRACE-UK which revealed “unacceptable” variations in maternity services. Trusts were subsequently invited to apply for part of the investment in January.
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Meanwhile, a further £500,000 will also be invested in developing a new system for staff to review and learn from every stillbirth and neonatal death, and over £1m has been allocated to rolling out training packages developed with the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
“Linked to this is the need for staff to attend appropriate and regular training”
Announcing the allocations today, Mr Hunt said: “By ensuring midwives and doctors have the right equipment we can further improve the safety and care of thousands of women and their babies during this life-changing moment.
“Improving maternity services is part of the government’s wider commitment to make sure all patients receive safe, high quality healthcare 24 hours a day, seven days a week, backed by a £10bn investment in the NHS,” he added.
Applications for funding were considered by the Department of Health and representatives from the RCM and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The largest tranche of money, £64,000, goes to Barts Health NHS Trust to spend on a project titled the “complex compassionate care collaborative”.
In addition, £48,000 has been given to Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust to spend on a maternity safety improvement plan and £45,000 goes to Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for cardiotocography monitoring equipment.
The smallest allocation if worth £5,000 and goes to East and North Herts NHS Trust for a birthing pool and monitoring equipment for the high risk maternity unit, including digital foetal dopplers.
Louise Silverton, the RCM’s director for midwifery, said the investment in additional equipment was welcome.
“Linked to this is the need for staff to attend appropriate and regular training. All steps must be taken to ensure that staff can be released from their clinical commitments,” she said.
“It is also critical that best practice is used across the service and I urge trusts to share their experiences and to learn from each other,” said Ms Silverton.
She added: “Whilst we do have a very low rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and maternal deaths in the UK, there is unacceptable variation between trusts and we must continue to strive to reduce the rates even further.”