UK maternity services are being called on to report all cases of intrapartum stillbirth, early neonatal death and severe neonatal brain injury occurring as a result of incidents during term labour.
It forms part of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Each Baby Counts project, a five-year initiative aiming to reduce the number of these events by 50% by 2020.
The project was launched in October 2014 and data collection will begin today.
A crucial part of the project involves bringing together the lessons learned from local investigations in order to improve the quality of care in labour at a national level, said the RCOG.
“We hope that all maternity providers will show their support for this project”
Stillbirth rates in the UK remain high and current estimates suggest 500 to 800 babies a year die or are left severely disabled because of potentially avoidable harm in labour.
Rigorous investigations into such cases should already be carried out as a matter of course in every maternity unit, following guidance issued by the RCOG in 2009. But the college now also wants the results submitted to it via a secure, online platform.
The results of these reviews will be analysed in order to identify avoidable factors and develop action plans suitable for local implementation.
By identifying common themes across the country which relate to these events, the RCOG will also be able to advocate for national change, where appropriate, as well as encourage local service improvements.
The majority of trusts and health boards have now nominated a lead reporter and have received training on how to report eligible cases, said the college.
“Frustratingly not all deaths are reviewed rigorously to ensure lessons are learned when mistakes do happen”
Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG vice president for clinical quality and co-principal investigator for Each Baby Counts, said: “We hope all maternity providers will show their support for this project and engage in reporting and learning from these tragic incidents.
“There can be little justification for neglecting to undertake reviews when the outcome for parents is as devastating as the loss of a child, or a child born with a severe disability,” he said.
“The collection of data is a key part of the project and its success depends on high quality information being submitted for national analysis,” he added.
Charlotte Bevan, senior research and prevention adviser at the stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, said it was an “important project”.
“Standards of care can vary considerably across the country and frustratingly not all deaths are reviewed rigorously to ensure lessons are learned when mistakes do happen,” she said.