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Pregnant women are to be offered specialist stop smoking referrals as part of NHS action to reduce stillbirths.
Following the success of a programme introduced in 2015 which saw 20 per cent fewer babies dying at birth, NHS England has confirmed that the scheme will be rolled out across the country as part of its Long Term Plan for the health service.
All maternity services will be instructed to take up the new Saving Babies Lives toolkit which helps mums-to-be and NHS professionals look out for the warning signs of problem pregnancies, as well as offering specialist stop smoking help. There will be a dedicated focus on reducing preterm births, a common complication of pregnancy which is strongly linked to lower rates of survival, and higher chances of health problems later in life.
The move has been welcomed by patient groups and health professionals, with the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (Sands) labelling the package ‘essential knowledge’ to prevent parents experiencing grief and loss.
Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: “No parent should have to endure the heartbreak of stillbirth, and NHS action, delivered through the skill and professionalism of our midwives, nurses and doctors – means an even greater number of parents and babies experience a healthy birth.
“The NHS Long Term Plan set out a clear and ambitious plan to improve England’s maternity services, which alongside even more expectant mums taking action themselves by stopping smoking, will make having a baby as safe as possible.”
Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, said: “It’s good to see that the NHS are offering specialist stop smoking help in the Care Bundle, as we know pregnant smokers and their partners need more help to quit. More than one in ten women in England are still smoking when their child is born with a real cost in babies’ lives. The NHS Long Term Plan commitment to fund intensive support is therefore very welcome and will provide much needed additional funding for existing services. This is investment the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group have long been calling for.
“Sands welcomes the latest Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle as the next step towards meeting the government’s commitment to halve stillbirths and neonatal baby deaths by 2025. This second version carries essential information for every healthcare professional who supports and works with pregnant women, and will help provide safer care to protect babies’ lives and ensure fewer families suffer grief and loss.”
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