Charities call for end to postcode lottery of care for bereaved parents

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A coalition of more than 40 charities working to prevent baby deaths and pregnancy loss is today urging an end to the postcode lottery in bereavement care for parents.

Pregnancy and baby loss affects thousands of families each year across the UK and it is vital to offer bereavement care and support to anyone who has lost a child or pregnancy.

However, the care offered to parents in hospital is worryingly inconsistent. It can depend on where parents live, at what stage of pregnancy or birth the loss occurs, and whether individual healthcare professionals know how to respond.

Currently, fewer than half (46%) of maternity units in the UK provide mandatory bereavement care training, while one in three Health Trusts and Boards have no dedicated bereavement rooms in each maternity unit they cover.1 And in neonatal units, 41% of services have no access to a trained mental health worker.2

The charities are now calling for:

1. All UK hospitals to be required to offer excellent bereavement care to parents.3

2. A member of staff appointed to lead on bereavement care in every hospital department where pregnancy loss and baby death occurs.

3. Bereavement rooms to be available and accessible in all hospitals.

4. All health and social care professionals to receive the highest standard of bereavement care training.5

The call is timed to coincide with the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October) when bereaved parents, their families and friends, unite across the world to commemorate their babies’ lives.

Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity), said: “It is long overdue that NHS Scotland makes the provision of excellent bereavement care mandatory across the country. Despite claims that it is a priority, there is still a shortage of dedicated bereavement rooms and too few health care professionals are getting the essential training they need to sensitively support grieving parents.

“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. So it is very worrying that parents have told us they can hear the sounds of crying babies, and mothers and fathers congratulating each other on the birth of their healthy babies, while they grieve.

“We believe every parent should be offered the bereavement support they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it. In Scotland, one way to make this happen is for a National Bereavement Care Pathway6 to be mandated and monitored through a new set of guidelines, and to ensure a similar approach is taken across the UK. I urge all those responsible to make sure no parent is left to cope with the death of their baby alone.”

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.

The Week culminates in a global Wave of Light at 7pm on 15 October when candles will be lit across the world to remember all those babies who have died too soon.7 Landmark buildings will be lit up pink and blue – the colours of Baby Loss Awareness Week.8

For further information on Baby Loss Awareness Week 2017 visit: www.babyloss-awareness.org