Forming effective partnerships to drive change: reflecting on another year of the Joint Policy Unit

In August 2021, Sands and Tommy’s joined forces to create our Joint Policy Unit, focusing on using evidence to identify the key changes needed to save babies’ lives, reduce inequities and improve outcomes. Here’s what the team has been working on over the past year.

As we launch our new impact report, which looks back over our work in 2022-23, it offered an opportunity to reflect upon another year of the Joint Policy Unit – a shared voice with Tommy’s and Sands to guide policy.

In spring 2022, Head of the Unit Robert Wilson set out the strategic objectives: 

  • To make 'saving babies' lives' and reducing inequalities a national policy priority
  • To ensure everyone can benefit from best-practice care through pregnancy and the neonatal period 
  • To secure policy change so that new research and evidence leads to improvements in care 

A challenging landscape for maternity services

Safety and equal access to services have been brought into sharp focus this year. While the Ockenden review and East Kent reports highlighted serious failings within individual services, various national reports have highlighted the challenges faced by services across the UK. Data from various sources including the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show some communities continue to experience much poorer outcomes than others in pregnancy and baby loss. We recognised that in order to affect change, we needed to pull together insight from a range of different sources to make clear, data driven recommendations, and build consensus on the key policy changes needed to save more babies’ lives.

The inaugural Saving Babies’ Lives Progress Report, launched in May 2023, laid out our ambitions to reduce loss throughout pregnancy and the neonatal period. This is a vital tool to support us to hold the government to account on efforts to reduce baby loss and improve outcomes throughout the pregnancy journey.

Driven by the experiences of the families who are reflected in our report, we are determined to make sure pregnancy loss and baby death stay high on the political agenda. That they are treated as the urgent priorities we know they deserve to be. Our report provides a clear view of where we are now, and where action is required to make progress. With it comes a commitment to work constructively with government and policymakers to secure change that will save more babies’ lives.

Robert Wilson, Head of the Joint Policy Unit

Tackling disparities in maternity care

Rates of stillbirth on 10% most and least deprived areas in England

As part of our work with Sands, we co-lead the Maternity Consortium for the Health & Wellbeing Alliance – a partnership between representatives across the sector, patient voice groups including FiveXMore, the Muslim Women’s Network UK, and LGBT Mummies, NHS and government agencies, with a shared goal to reduce health inequalities for families from pre-conception through to the first year of a baby’s life.

In 2022, the Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield, established the Maternity Disparities taskforce to tackle disparities in maternity care experienced by women from ethnic minority groups and those living in deprived areas.

The Maternity Consortium are members of the taskforce and bring the voices of those with lived experience to the group.