The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said that coroners should be granted the power to investigate stillbirths in order to reduce the number of heart breaking occurrences.
Stillbirths (when a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy) occur in 1 in every 200 pregnancies in the UK, and Britain has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the western world according to international studies.
A major report has found that a large majority of stillbirths could have been avoided with the correct care, linking a proportion of these due to staffing shortages and a lack of other resources.
Coroners can currently investigate deaths of babies only if they show signs of life after being born. The Health Secretary has called for a change in the law so that all stillbirth cases can be examined via an inquest and the cause of death can be found, providing vital answers for the parents.
He also says that the same rules should apply when a baby is left suffering from severe brain damage.
The Government had previously pledged to lower the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries by 2030, but Mr Hunt has moved this target forward to 2025. In order to do this, a new Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch will be established and referred to in cases of baby deaths and severe injury.
The focus on pushing for more inquests should hopefully help families get honest answers into what caused the stillbirth quickly and without the difficulties that can come from trying to force answers from the hospital. Many parents and families have been denied this opportunity previously, which only adds to the pain of their loss. Inquests carried out by an independent investigator can provide parents with some form of closure and hopefully prevent such tragedies happening in the future.
When a child suffers from brain damage due to the negligence of the hospital, the compensation awarded is likely to be significant; this is to pay for the care and assistance the child will need throughout their lives. Stillbirth medical negligence cases do not lead to as much compensation in comparison and there are concerns that this could be the reason why the stillbirth rate is so poor in the UK and lessons are not being learnt.
Hopefully, the proposed increase in inquests will lead to a more transparent system in which hospitals work to reduce stillbirths and the devastating impact they can have.
If you have unfortunately lost a child at birth to a stillbirth, or your child suffers from a condition due to the acts or omission of healthcare professionals during your pregnancy then you may be entitled to a medical negligence claim. If you would like to enquire then please call 01924 457171 to speak to one of our medical negligence experts today.