Jeremy Hunt calls for coroner powers to probe stillbirth causes

Posted On: 
28th November 2017

Mothers who have faced a full-term stillbirth or life-changing injuries to babies could be given the right to an investigation by a coroner, under plans to be announced by Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt will address the MBRRACE-UK collaboration of academics in Oxford
PA Images

The Health Secretary will outline the Government’s plans to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and severe birth-related brain injuries by 2025 - a move which he says would save more than 4,000 thousand lives.

Mr Hunt will urge changes to the legal system to allow greater analysis into the causes of stillbirths.

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As it stands coroners can only investigate deaths of babies who show signs of life after being born.

However there are currently around 3,600 stillbirths in the UK each year, according to the NHS, with eleven babies stillborn every day - making it 15 times more common than cot death.

An NHS-backed review of deaths in cases where the baby appeared healthy as labour began found that better car could have prevented the death in four out of five cases.

Nine in ten subsequent internal investigations however fail to meet national guidance for thoroughness, according to MBRRACE-UK, a national collaborative programme investigating maternal and infant deaths.

Other new measures include attempts to bring down the number of babies born prematurely by reducing the national pre-term birth rate from 8% to 6% – which could lead to around 10,000 fewer premature babies per year from 2025.

In a speech to academics in Oxford Mr Hunt is expected to say: “The tragic death or life changing injury of a baby is something no parent should have to bear, but one thing that can help in these agonising circumstances is getting honest answers quickly from an independent investigator.

“Too many families have been denied this in the past, adding unnecessarily to the pain of their loss.

“Countless mothers and fathers who have suffered like this say that the most important outcome for them is making sure lessons are learnt so that no-one else has to endure the same heartbreak.

“These important changes will help us to make ‎that promise in the future.”