In July 2018 the NHS celebrated a huge achievement, its 70th birthday. Looking forward, to ensure that the NHS is able to continue to provide care to the UK’s growing population, in January 2019 the NHS published the NHS Long Term Plan. This Plan provides a framework made up of seven chapters that focus on building an NHS that is fit for the future.

Within the Plan chapter three specifically considers ways to improve the health of babies and young children. In the last ten years there has been a considerable reduction in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths each year in England and Wales. The Plan reports that since 2010, there has been an 18.8% reduction in neonatal mortality and a 5.8% reduction in maternal mortality. However, as reported by national charity SANDS, fifteen babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK. The Plan acknowledges that there is still more that can be done to improve the health of babies from pregnancy, birth and in the early weeks of their lives right through to adulthood.

The NHS Long Term Plan has proposed a number of strategies and recommendations that it intends to implement over the next 10 years, all with the overarching aim of achieving a 50% reduction in stillbirth, maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and serious brain injury. The Plan hopes to reach this target by 2025.

The Plan has several aims and ambitions including:

-Rolling out the Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle in maternity units across England in 2019. This bundle is essentially an action plan that is put together for patients with the aim of preventing stillbirth and neonatal death. In those units where care bundles are already used, there has been a 20% reduction in stillbirth rates.

- Increasing the number of pregnant women who have continuity of carers during their pregnancies. In 2019, the Plan’s aim is for 20% of pregnant women to have the opportunity to have the same midwife caring for them through their pregnancy, during birth and after birth. Statistics have shown that pregnant women who have continuity of carers are 16% less likely to lose their baby.

- Improving access to perinatal mental health for mothers, their partners and their children. According to the Plan, it is estimated that one in four women experience mental health problems in pregnancy and during the first two years after giving birth.

- Improving access to postnatal physiotherapy to support women who have suffered physical injuries during birth.

- Improving the standard of neonatal critical care services by introducing more neonatal intensive care cots, training more neonatal nurses and providing care co-ordinators to work with the families whose babies require neonatal critical care.

The Plan’s pledges have been welcomed by national charities that work to raise awareness of stillbirth and neonatal death and it will be interesting to see the impact that the Plan has on maternity services over the next few months and years. It is certainly hoped that with adequate funding, the goal of a 50% reduction in rates of stillbirth, maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and serious brain injury is achieved.

If you have concerns that your care was mismanaged during your pregnancy or labour and this has resulted in you losing a child, your child suffering injury or you suffering an injury, contact a member of our national team for a free, confidential discussion about your options.

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes) 01865 781019 carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Birmingham) on 0845 274 6830 karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham) on 0845 272 5724 jane.williams@freeths.co.uk