Tommy’s experts support development of new Saving Babies’ Lives action plan

NHS England has published a new version of its Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle – an evidence-based guide to maternity and neonatal care for healthcare professionals and commissioners in England aimed at reducing stillbirth and early neonatal deaths.

Tommy’s stillbirth and preterm birth researchers were among experts who contributed towards developing the third version of this saving babies’ lives ‘action plan’. It is designed to support the NHS in reaching its maternity safety ambitions of halving rates of perinatal death between 2010 and 2025.  

While achievements have been made in recent years, data shows that much more needs to be done, and with urgency. That’s why Tommy’s has been proud to support the development of this care bundle which will help make pregnancy and birth safer – for all. As our Chief Executive Kath Abrahams explains in her introduction to Saving Babies’ Lives V3: 

“Despite ambitious targets, rates of stillbirth and preterm birth are not falling as quickly as we would have hoped, and indeed stillbirth rates sadly rose in 2021. It is also clear that variation in care continues, and not all women and birthing people have the same chance of taking home a healthy baby – the outcome every family deserves.” 

Kath continues: “This is why it’s vital that Tommy’s continues to support efforts to transform maternity care and save babies’ lives. I’m delighted to see the new Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle published which contains recommendations which will help make pregnancy and birth safer.” 

The package focuses on 6 key areas of care during pregnancy: 

  1. Reducing smoking  

  1. Risk assessment, surveillance and management of babies’ growth 

  1. Raising awareness of babies’ reduced movements 

  1. Effective monitoring of babies during labour 

  1. Reducing preterm birth 

  1. Managing pre-existing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes 

One development is new guidance on the management of pre-existing diabetes for pregnant women and birthing people. In recent years there has been a rise in mothers with pre-existing diabetes, and no reduction in perinatal death rates for their babies: it’s vital that women and birthing people with this condition receive personalised care backed by the latest research.  

Crucially, each part of the new care bundle has also been reviewed to ensure it meets maternity and neonatal services’ targets for equity and reducing health inequalities, including for babies from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic groups and those born to mothers living in England’s most deprived areas. 

In line with our strategic commitment to tackle inequity, we’re really pleased to see this commitment to equity throughout the new guidance, which includes a recommendation that each individual NHS Trust produces an action plan for tackling inequities in their hospitals. 

Preterm birth continues to be an important focus in this version of the bundle. We know that babies who are born early are at risk of life-long complications, so it’s crucial that reduction of preterm birth is viewed alongside reducing other pregnancy complications which can result in loss. 

A continued focus on surveillance and management of babies' growth, and of raising awareness among women and pregnant people of the importance of keeping track of their babies' movements and quickly reporting it if they notice a change, are vital for reducing risk of stillbirth.

Our Chief Executive Kath Abrahams was among representatives from pregnancy and maternity safety charities and other organisations invited to respond to the new Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle in an introduction for its publication. She says: 

“Research is continually advancing understanding and growing evidence and it is vital this is translated into improvements in care. This version of the bundle is another important step on the journey to safer pregnancy and birth.  

“We know that when all maternity units follow these actions, fewer families will face the heartbreak and devastation of pregnancy complications and loss.” 

Read ‘Saving babies’ lives version three: a care bundle for reducing perinatal mortality’ on the NHS England website