RCPCH responds to Bliss and Sands bereavement audit

Baby loss charities, Sands and Bliss, have today released a report which reveals that most services lack sufficient specialist staffing input and appropriate facilities to support grieving families. Dr David Evans responds.

A report published today by Sands, Stillbirth and neonatal death charity, and Bliss, for babies born premature and sick, has found that NHS bereavement care for parents whose baby dies shortly after birth is worryingly inconsistent and under-resourced, despite instances of good practice by individual nurses and doctors across the country.

The report recommends steps that NHS Trusts and Boards can take to remedy this, in order to provide better care to bereaved families before, during and following the death of their child. They say that improvements to bereavement care are "urgently needed", as around 40 babies die in the neonatal period in the UK every week.

Responding to the joint Audit of Bereavement Care Provision in UK Neonatal Units (2018) from Sands and Bliss, Dr David Evans, Consultant Neonatologist and Vice President for Training and Assessment at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

As a doctor who works with very sick newborn babies, I see the ups and downs experienced by parents daily and sadly sometimes babies do not get better. Baby loss is heartbreaking for all involved, including the healthcare professionals who provide the neonatal care. We mustn’t forget that they are human too and require some level of emotional support.

Today’s audit lays bare the gaps in bereavement support across neonatal units but crucially, it makes a series of recommendations that if implemented, could transform care in these delicate and emotional days and weeks after loss. I fully support these recommendations and hope they are adopted soon so families and healthcare professionals see these important changes during their time of need.