News

Bereavement care training branded inadequate in UK maternity units

National charity reveals poor bereavement training for health professionals working in maternity units.
caring for bereaved parents

Bereavement care training for UK maternity unit staff is patchy and under-resourced, according to research.

Stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands found that the training is mandatory in fewer than half of the 79 providers it surveyed earlier this year.

Two thirds of the organisations carry out training annually, but 86% allocate just an hour or less for the education.

Complex care needs

The charity does not believe this is enough to prepare health professionals to handle the complexities of caring for bereaved families.

Sands chief executive Clea Harmer said a poor care experience can exacerbate parents grief in the long-term.

It is crucial trusts and health boards have the right resources and policies to ensure bereaved parents receive the personalised care they need, and that staff are properly trained and supported to provide this.

Lack of specialist midwives

The

Bereavement care training for UK maternity unit staff is patchy and under-resourced, according to research.

Stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands found that the training is mandatory in fewer than half of the 79 providers it surveyed earlier this year.

Two thirds of the organisations carry out training annually, but 86% allocate just an hour or less for the education.

Complex care needs

The charity does not believe this is enough to prepare health professionals to handle the complexities of caring for bereaved families.

Sands chief executive Clea Harmer said a poor care experience can exacerbate parents’ grief in the long-term.

‘It is crucial trusts and health boards have the right resources and policies to ensure bereaved parents receive the personalised care they need, and that staff are properly trained and supported to provide this.’

Lack of specialist midwives

The organisations surveyed covered around 364,216 deliveries, 1,453 stillbirths and 543 neonatal deaths in 2015, yet 38% of the maternity units did not have a specialist bereavement midwife, and one in ten had no dedicated bereavement room.

Sands recommends that every parent has access to a dedicated midwife specifically trained in bereavement care, who ensures their entire team is trained. There should be at least one soundproofed bereavement room, with equipment such as ‘cold cots’, to accommodate the bereaved family, and parents should be offered aftercare.

The launch of the survey coincides with Baby Loss Awareness Week and a backbench debate in the House of Commons on baby loss.

Call for action

Sands believes the government has yet to demonstrate how it intends to achieve a significant fall in the number of babies dying and has called for a clear, well-funded strategy that includes investment in research.

The charity published updated online guidance for health professionals on pregnancy loss and neonatal death last month.


Further information

Clinical update: pregnancy loss and the death of a baby

Stillbirth and neonatal death charity publish new guidelines for nurses

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