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Bliss' response to Jeremy Hunt's Maternity Safety Strategy

28 November 2017

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, has set out plans today for a Maternity Safety Strategy, following the stark findings of the Learning from death: when babies die as a result of something that happened during labour report from MBRRACE-UK.

Launched today, the report found that among babies who were stillborn during labour or who died shortly after birth, in eight out of ten cases improvements in care were identified which could have saved the baby’s life. Problems with adequate staffing and resourcing were identified as affecting the safety of care in at least one in four of these deaths.

The key commitments outlined by the Secretary included:

  • Extending the National Ambition to include reducing the rate of prematurity alongside the rates of stillbirth, neonatal death and brain injury.
  • Bringing forward the date to achieve the aims of the National Ambition from 2030 to 2025.
  • Releasing a new suite of online training resources for healthcare professionals aimed at reducing full-term admissions to neonatal units, and developing a better understanding of the importance of keeping mothers and babies together.
  • A new fund for smoking cessation services to help support more women to stop smoking successfully during their pregnancy.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said ‘’We welcome the Secretary of State’s commitments to extend the National Ambition to include a reduction in the rate of prematurity.

“We know that prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal death - as well as a traumatic start in life for those babies who do survive to go home, many of whom may have lifelong difficulties as a result - so this is a welcome step which will be vital to achieving the aims of the overall ambition. We are also pleased that there is a drive to meet the targets more quickly than originally planned, making this a clear priority for maternity and neonatal services over the coming years.

"However, with the publication of the Learning from death report, and the upcoming Neonatal Transformation Review, there is still plenty more to do to ensure the safety and sustainability of services across the board. We would urge the Government to refresh their strategy once the Neonatal Review findings are published to ensure there is an equal focus on improving care and safety in neonatal units, as well as in the delivery suite.’’

Bliss’ baby reports for England, Wales and Scotland, highlight the issues around staffing shortages and other problems facing neonatal care units and the impact these have on families and staff.

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