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In 2013 in the UK, one in every 137 babies was either stillborn or died in the first 4 weeks of life

Here in N. Ireland, over 3 babies a week are stillborn or die in the first 4 weeks of life.

We support all bereaved parents who have lost their babies, before, during or shortly after birth.

Consultation on Review of Maternity Services

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has commissioned the Patient and Client Council to undertake a pre-consultation as part of the Maternity Services Review.  SandsNI has been invited to take part.

Announcing the review the Minister (Michael McGimpsy) said: "Safe sustainable maternity services are a top priority for my Department. Over recent years our maternity services have been under considerable pressure and I want to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of all staff involved in maternity care.

"In Northern Ireland we have one of the safest maternity services in the UK. However, the increasing birth rate and ever increasing standards for maternity services, means the time is right for us to take a comprehensive look at our service."

The Minister has invited Dr Paul Fogarty, Royal College of Obstetricians, and Professor Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, to co-chair the review. The Minister said: "It is vital that all those involved in maternity services have their voices heard and we can take account of the views of people working on the ground. The appointment of Dr Fogarty and Professor Warwick as joint chairs will ensure a joined up approach to the review and subsequent strategy.”

This review is potentially a once-in-a-generation chance for Sands NI to feed into the future of maternity care in Northern Ireland. It will enable us to report how we see the difficulties in our local hospitals, based on both our own experiences and of those we hear in the support groups every month.

After the Stormont Every Baby Matters event we - along with Bliss and Tinylife - wrote to the Health Committee at Stormont asking for a chance to come and speak to them about the review. But now we have been offered another opportunity to input, which we hope to grab with both hands.

The PCC is running what is known as a pre-consultation with interested groups/individuals. The purpose of this pre-consultation is to shape how the full review will be carried out and to flag up issues that are systemically important to be explored in more depth by the experts and healthcare professionals.

Obviously bereavement care, childbearing loss and prevention of prematurity etc are key issues for Sands NI and bereaved parents across Northern Ireland. But they are only one aspect of the full picture and lots of other demands are made on the services - taking part in the process should enable us to ensure that our issues are flagged up at an early stage - these are things like absence of bereavement midwives; shortage of neonatal cots; problems with perinatal pathology/post-mortems; staffing levels and support for staff; loss of experienced midwives; ante-natal messaging and prevention etc. By highlighting these hopefully they will decide to investigate more deeply in the review and we might see some action come out of it.

The PCC has confirmed that they will happily listen to parents who have been bereaved some time ago or recently. We are trying to organise a 'focus group'. Essentially that would be a few Sands supporters meeting with the PCC and talking in a structured way about the questions that they have been set:

The aim is to gather the service user’s overall experience questions to be asked are:

a. How happy were you with the overall service that you received?
b. Did you receive the information that you needed during the pregnancy? Was it understandable and practical given your circumstances?
c. What worked well about the care that you received? How could this have been improved?
d. Did you feel that staff caring for you were able to meet your needs? Were you able to discuss problems with staff providing your care? Did you feel that you received continuity of care?
e. What would be your top priority for improving maternity services?

If you would be interested in taking part in a focus group to discuss these questions, or if you would be interested in making a written submission to input your views, please e-mail by 26 July.  The focus group is planned for mid-to-late August.