Working in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the NHS, and led by clinicians and improvement science experts from 4 leading universities (the University of Bristol, Kings College London, University of Sheffield and St George’s, University of London) the Tommy’s Centre for Maternity Improvement works to prevent stillbirths and preterm births across the UK.
“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.
This innovative centre harnesses world-class care and knowledge, and uses the latest technology to enable and support doctors and midwives to identify women at high risk of pregnancy complications, ensuring they receive appropriate, personalised care and treatment, 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?
Tommy’s is working to reduce the rate of stillbirth and preterm birth in the UK.
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.
“The Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement harnesses digital technology, national data and behavioural insights to reduce preterm birth and stillbirth across the UK. We aim to reduce the current unequal provision of care that can be too little too late for some women, and too much too soon for others, by developing digital platforms and practice-based tools to personalise care with women. These tools will also enable maternity professionals to provide tailored and evidence-based care with women. We are excited by the potential synergies offered by working directly with Tommy’s, drawing on their expertise and resources to reach all women and their families who will benefit from our Centre’s work.”
Professor Tim Draycott, Director, Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement
What does the Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement do?
The centre will use currently recommended interventions for the management of preterm birth and stillbirth in the UK to reduce national rates of preterm and stillbirth, by improving care in the least well-performing 80% of units, so that they match the level of the top 20% of maternity units.
Technology offers us new ways to achieve this far-reaching impact on clinical practice. The new Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement will develop an innovative,easy-to-use digital e-health tool that will empower doctors and midwives to access the very best, continually updated, guidance and practical advice.
The digital tool will harness data to standardise risk assessment processes at booking, emergency presentation and pre-birth. It will do this by providing under-resourced maternity staff with validated prediction algorithms and prompts to clinical interventions based on established and clinical guidelines
Researchers at the centre will develop a world-class tool that saves lives by standardising the screening of pregnancy risk and the treatment of high-risk women; and leverage change in clinical practice nationally across the NHS.
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.
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.