Review after 24 baby deaths in 12 months

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An urgent review is being carried out into the death of 24 babies in Forth Valley last year.

The number of stillbirths was higher than the national average in the first half of 2016, triggering the health board’s decision to initially hold an internal investigation.

Although it said that no “significant issues or concerns” had been identified, it was arranging for an independent external review to “identify all potential learning”.

The announcement by the health authority comes just weeks after the publication of a Scotland-wide review of maternity and neonatal services. The group carrying 
out the scrutiny and which drew up 76 recommendations was chaired by Jane Grant, chief executive of NHS Forth Valley.

It also follows a meeting where members of the health board heard that there were “high levels of anxiety” from nurses and midwives in Forth Valley in preparation for a new revalidation process by the Nursing and Midwifery Council which was introduced last year.

However, they heard that by November over 520 had successfully completed the process.

In a statement, a NHS Forth Valley spokesperson said: “We monitor the level of stillbirths closely and, as the number in the first half of 2016 was higher than the national average, we took the decision to carry out an internal review.

“Although the total number of stillbirths in 2016 was higher than the previous year the numbers fell consistently throughout the second half of the year during which time they were similar to previous years.”

They added that a number of the stillbirths being reviewed occurred outwith hospital and stillbirths can be caused by many different factors including accidents, fetal abnormalities, genetic and medical conditions.

They said: “Despite medical advances it is not always possible to predict or prevent stillbirths however it is important to look at the circumstances surrounding each individual case.

“The review to-date has not identified any significant issues or concerns and we are committed to the ongoing delivery of high quality, safe and effective maternity care. We are also currently in the process of arranging an independent external review to ensure we identify all potential learning.

“All cases of stillbirth are reviewed on an individual basis and are also reported to the relevant professional and national bodies.”