Nine babies are stillborn every day in the UK. This equates to one in every 225 births.

Parents often have many questions following a bereavement. At present, Coroners can only hold inquests for babies who have shown signs of life after being born. This leaves many cases where doctors are unable to tell the parents why their baby died. There may be a number of possible causes including complications with the placenta (which is linked to around half of stillbirths), pre-eclampsia, obstetric cholestasis, pre-existing diabetes, gestational diabetes, genetic defects, haemorrhage, issues with the umbilical cord, and premature birth.

The government have commenced a consultation to decide whether Coroners in England and Wales should be given new powers to investigate stillbirths, enabling each baby death to be assessed independently. This would enable bereaved parents to obtain answers as to what went wrong and why.

Most hospitals have protocols in place to investigate stillbirths following what would appear to have been a healthy pregnancy. A safety investigation body funded by the Department of Health and Social Care may also investigate a stillbirth. Whilst some are satisfied with this approach, there have been concerns raised that investigations are inconsistent and more transparency is required.

The consultation for the proposed revised system is to consider the following:-

Coroners in England and Wales gaining powers to investigate all full-term stillbirths, occurring from 37 weeks of pregnancy

Coroners would not have to gain consent or permission from any third party in exercising this power

The Coroner would consider whether any lessons could be learned

Their investigations would not replace current investigations by the hospital or NHS agencies

Justice Minister Edward Argar said: "Although we have robust processes in place at the moment to investigate stillbirths, we think we can go further and we should go further. The use of coroners to investigate them in an open and transparent way would not only help bring closure to families who have suffered this tragedy but would also help us to learn lessons for the future to help further reduce the number of stillbirths."

The consultation is being run in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Health and Social Care. They wish to hear from bereaved parents and those that support them together with health professionals themselves. Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: "We want to do everything we can to make pregnancy safer, by continually learning to improve the care on offer so fewer people have to experience the terrible tragedy of losing a child and those who do get the answers and support they deserve."

For further information, please see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47694760

Freeths’ Clinical Negligence Solicitors have a national reputation for providing the highest quality legal advice following failures by medical professionals to provide appropriate care during pregnancy, labour, delivery and in the neonatal period. We have expertise in clinical negligence cases concerning stillbirth and birth injuries along with experience dealing with Coroners and their investigations. Three solicitors in our national clinical negligence team have received training from the Foundation for Infant Loss, and are now their recommended solicitors for the Staffordshire, Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire regions.

The Foundation for Infant Loss provides education in Infant Loss and Bereavement to professionals, and their award winning courses have been accredited world wide. In April 2018 the Foundation for Infant Loss launched its Nationwide Baby loss helpline. Please see their website for further information about the support available: http://www.foundationforinfantloss.co.uk/

If you, or someone you know, requires advice please contact:

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent) on 0845 272 5677 or karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Claire Cooper, Solicitor (Derby/Stoke on Trent) on 0845 274 6830 or claire.cooper@freeths.co.uk (Foundation for Infant Loss recommended solicitor for Staffordshire)

Naomi Solomon, Solicitor  (Derby/Stoke on Trent) on 0845 030 5742 or naomi.solomon@freeths.co.uk

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes) on 0186 578 1019 or carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk (Foundation for Infant Loss recommended Solicitor for Buckinghamshire)

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham/Birmingham) on 0845 272 5724 or jane.williams@freeths.co.uk (Foundation for Infant Loss recommended Solicitor for Leicestershire)

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/