Charities make official complaint to BBC's 'In the club'

A group of charities, including Tommy's, that work to improve health in pregnancy and birth have made an official complaint to BBC's 'In the club' for giving inaccurate information about fetal movements.

The letter was drafted by Mama Academy and Our Angels, and signed by 17 charities, including Tommy's. It has also been signed by RCM and has the support of NHS England. This is the letter in full. 

Dear Mr. Jordan,
We are extremely concerned about some of the content in recent episodes of the BBC One drama “In the Club”, in which characters in roles as midwives have indicated that a reduction in a baby's movements is normal in the later stages of pregnancy and that it is not something for pregnant mothers to be concerned about. Sadly talking to your complaints line had little impact and we received an unsatisfactory response (attached). Given the importance of the message we feel our only option is to convey this message more formally in this co-signed letter.

NHS England, health professionals, and charities all over the country are working tirelessly to correct this myth. The UK has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world: (10 babies are stillborn every day and one third of those occur at full term). Much collaborative effort, both national and international, is being put into changing that fact.

Such inaccurate information is in conflict with messages regarding reduced fetal movements in the national hand held maternity notes given to women to track their health during pregnancy. In March 2016, NHS England launched its new “Saving Babies’ Lives” Care Bundle2, a national initiative for health professionals identifying key areas to focus on with the aim of reducing UK stillbirth rates and preventing avoidable stillbirths wherever possible. A central tenet of this initiative is raising awareness of the significance of a reduction in a baby's movements and effective intervention where necessary. Furthermore, NHS England also published an information leaflet created for women regarding reduced fetal movements. Sadly, we believe that the BBC’s content in “In The Club” is undermining all this vital work to save babies lives.

Broadcasting this inaccuracy may be falsely reassuring mothers that their reduction in babies movements is normal and lead them not to seek help from their maternity units. This incorrect advice may be responsible for future avoidable stillbirths in the UK, and clearly breaches the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines Section 3 (Accuracy) in both Principles and Avoiding Misleading Audiences. As members of stillbirth charities and health professionals, we believe that it is essential that this misinformation is corrected, and furthermore that it is not promoted in future.

The Royal College of Midwives (a signatory on this letter), have offered to work with the BBC to advise on maternity scenes for any future programmes. This would be a great way to ensure that any advice you are given is contemporaneous and accurate.

As a matter of the utmost urgency, we request that future episodes of this programme are broadcast with advisory messages at the beginning and end of each episode stating: Babies movements should not slow down at the end of pregnancy. It is NHS advice that if you notice any change in your baby's regular pattern of movement, contact your maternity unit straight away. Do not wait until the next day.

Visit mamaacademy.org.uk or tommys.org/movements for more information.

We look forward to your prompt action and confirmation that our request has been implemented.

Judith Abela (Acting Chief Executive, Sands)

Heidi Aldridge (CEO Mama Academy)

Chris Binnie (Treasurer, Our Angels)

Emma Brewer (Founder, Kitty's Dream)

Carrie-Ann Curtis (Founder, Charlies Angel Centre)

Jane Brewin (CEO, Tommy's)

Professor Jason Gardosi (Director, Perinatal Institute)

Dr Alexander Heazell (Director of Tommy's stillbirth clinic, University of Manchester)

Debbie Howard (Director, Still Loved)

Elizabeth Hutton (CEO, Kicks Count)

Ryan & Amy Jackson (Founders, The Lily Mae Foundation)

Gail Johnson (Professional Education Advisor, Royal College of Midwives)

Emma Lofthouse (Chair, Our Angels)

Jennifer & Christopher Reid (Founders, Teddy's Wish)

Professor Jane Sandall (Social Science and Women's Health)

Rebecca Schiller (Founder, Birthrights)

Mel Scott (Trustee, Towards Tomorrow Together)

David Ward (CEO, Abigail’s Footprints)

Nick Wilkie (CEO, National Childbirth Trust)

Response from BBC Complaints

“Thank you for contacting us about in the club.

I understand that you felt our Midwife character Vicky, made irresponsible comments regarding reduced fetal activity. I asked the programme makers to address your feedback and they explained they worked closely with a number of midwife consultants throughout the production process of the series. They not only advised on the script, but were also on set for the filming of the medical scenes. What Vicky said was informed by real life working midwives and it reflected the reassuring statements they would have given the expectant mother in the knowledge she was about to be seen by a consultant and receive medical attention. I hope this has helped to address your concerns and thanks again for taking the time to contact us.”

Jane Brewin, at Tommy's said:  'Research shows that 2 out of 3 women who had a stillbirth reported afterwards that they had noticed reduced fetal movements before it happened. We have worked very hard with other pregnancy charities and the NHS to counter myths about the baby 'running out of room to move' in the third trimester. It is NOT true. The same pattern of movements should continue right up until the baby is born. If any woman notices a change in her baby's pattern of movements she should call her midwife or hospital immediately.

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