Who are we?
The Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement was formed in 2019 by Tommy’s, in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), with the aim of reducing the number of babies who are stillborn or born prematurely. By working with women, midwives, doctors, NHS trusts and academic experts from the University of Bristol, the University of Sheffield, St George’s University of London, King’s College London and the PROMPT Maternity Foundation, the centre is driving an innovative programme of improvement to maternity services in the UK.
What is our vision?
Our vision is to make the UK the safest place in the world to give birth by making it easier for every woman to receive the right care at the right time and by reducing health inequalities across the country.
Our aim is to save lives. We want to prevent up to 600 stillbirths and 12,000 preterm births in the UK every year. This will support UK Government targets to halve stillbirth rates and to reduce premature birth rates from 8% to 6% by 2025.
Why do we need this centre?
“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.
In the UK, around 3,000 babies are stillborn every year and there are around 60,000 premature births. There is wide variation in stillbirth and premature birth rates throughout the UK. This is not due to differences in the characteristics of local populations or a lack of research or clinical guidelines but is instead a result of variation in the way that guidelines are implemented locally. This is made more complicated by differences in the availability and organisation of local resources. In fact, recent national reports have found that NHS maternity staff often do not have the required information, resources and support they need to help them provide the best possible care.
What are we doing to make things better?
Our current method of assessing risk during pregnancy has remained unchanged since the 1970s, with midwives or doctors using a checklist to classify a woman as either ‘high’ risk or ‘low’ risk. The current system does not measure how high or low this risk is, and so does not allow for more personalised care. As a result, we are creating The Tommy’s App – an online medical tool that will help healthcare providers work out which pregnant women are most at risk of giving birth prematurely or of developing pregnancy complications that can lead to stillbirth. The app will use information routinely gathered by midwives and doctors to provide a personalised risk score and treatment recommendations for every pregnant woman, ensuring that every woman receives the best support possible throughout pregnancy. The app will also empower pregnant women to become more engaged in their own care.
Tommy’s has over 25 years of experience and collaboration is central to the way we work. Our partnerships with RCM and RCOG, and our long-standing relationships with the NHS and other health bodies, will enable us to reach health professionals and ensure that the app meets their needs.
The Tommy’s National 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. The centre is led by Professor Basky Thilaganathan, who is a Consultant Obstetrician and Director of Fetal Medicine at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.