Working in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), and supported by clinicians and improvement science experts from the universities of Bristol and Sheffield, St George’s University of London and King’s College London, as well as midwives and families, the Tommy’s Centre for Maternity Improvement works to prevent stillbirths and preterm births across the UK.
It aims to support midwives and other maternity staff to deliver best practice care and prevent up to 600 stillbirths and 12,000 preterm births every year.
“There is no doubt Liberty should be here today. If anyone detected, as they should have, that Liberty was not growing properly, we would have certainly saved her. No-one did. At least another 1,000 babies a year die in the UK under very similar circumstances. Their deaths are totally preventable today. We need to save them, here and now.”
Alessandro Alagna and his wife Sophie lost their first child, Liberty, after routine pregnancy checks were unable to spot life-threatening growth restrictions. She died before she was born at 36 weeks.
The centre is developing a digital tool which will identify women at high risk of developing pregnancy complications which could result in stillbirth or preterm birth. It will use information already routinely gathered by midwives to provide appropriate, personalised care and treatment recommendations, while also empowering women to become more engaged in their own care.
Our aim is to save lives: preventing 600 stillbirths and 12,000 preterm births nationally and supporting UK Government targets to halve stillbirth and reduce preterm birth from 8% to 6% by 2025. This will make the UK the safest place in the world to give birth.
Why do we need the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement?
There is wide variation in stillbirth and perinatal mortality rates throughout the UK. This difference is not explained by a lack of current research recommendations, but because there is variation in local adoption and implementation of existing guidelines and good clinical practice. This is made more complicated by differences in availability and organisation of local resources.
All recent national reports have identified that staff struggle with a lack of resources and capacity to provide best care.
There are 4 important reasons why so many babies are still at risk
- Risk is not accurately assessed in pregnancy, which means that many problems develop unnoticed and are harder to treat by the time they are identified.
- Stillbirth and preterm birth rates vary widely across the UK (by over 20%) due to variations in how guidelines and good practice are implemented locally.
- Future risk is often assessed based on previous obstetric history meaning that many parents must experience loss before being referred to a doctor.
- All recent national reports have identified that NHS maternity staff struggle with a lack of resources and capacity to provide the best care.
Tommy’s has over 25 years of experience and collaboration is central to the way we work. Our partnerships with RCM and the RCOG, and our long-standing relationships with NHS and health bodies such as Public Health England, will enable us to reach health professionals and ensure that the digital tool meets their needs.
The Tommy’s Centre for Maternity Improvement involves obstetricians, midwives, data analysists and behavioural scientists from leading UK universities and clinical centres, as well as women and their families.
Professor Basky Thilaganathan – Clinical Director
The Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement is led by Professor Basky Thilaganathan. Professor Thilaganathan is a Consultant Obstetrician and Director of Fetal Medicine at St Georges’ University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
He took on the role of Clinical Director for the Centre in March 2020 and brings a wealth of experience to the Tommy’s Centre, particularly in the areas of placental function, preeclampsia and fetal growth. He has experience of developing and implementing innovative tools designed to personalise care and improve pregnancy outcomes.
Professor Jane Sandall and Professor Andrew Judge – Deputy Directors
Professor Thilaganathan is supported by two Deputy Directors: Professor Jane Sandall, a midwife who brings implementation science and collaborative cross-boundary leadership experience; and Professor Andrew Judge, a professor of translational statistics with expertise in medical statistics and in conducting epidemiological research using ‘big’ health registry data across multiple health conditions.
Other experts who will be providing clinical leadership include:
- Professor Dilly Anumba, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Sheffield;
- Cathy Winter, senior midwife at North Bristol NHS Trust and lead midwife for the PROMPT Maternity Foundation (PMF);
- Dr. Erik Lenguerrand, research fellow from the University of Bristol;
- Maria Viner, CEO of charity Mothers for Mothers and a member of the RCOG’s Women’s Network, also provides leadership and representation for the parents contributing to the centre’s work.
Premature birth is the biggest killer of newborn babies in the UK and much of Tommy's research is devoted to predicting and preventing this. One discovery has made a huge difference to our ability to treat women in time.
In more than half of stillbirths parents are not given a reason for their babies' death. Doctors simply do not know why it happens. This animation looks at how Tommy's researchers are finding out the causes of stillbirth and how this leads to treatments and saved lives.
Too many miscarriages are unexplained. Our research is entirely dedicated to finding out why miscarriages happen and how to prevent it in the future.