Sands is calling for all healthcare professionals in contact with bereaved parents, to have dedicated time for essential training during working hours.
A Sands survey of NHS trusts and boards found that the majority of midwives working in NHS trusts and boards are expected to complete vital bereavement care training in their own spare time.
Although just over three quarters (77%) of trusts and boards reported that bereavement care training was accessible to their midwives, only a third of trusts and boards (33%) said that those midwives were given time during working hours to attend it.
Good quality bereavement care is vital for parents who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy, or whose baby has been stillborn or died in hospital during the first weeks of life.
Urgent action needed on bereavement care training
Sands is urging everyone to raise this important issue with their local health trust or board chief executive.
The charity has launched an e-action as part of its latest campaign, Together, we are Sands,that asks NHS leaders to ensure that their frontline staff are given time in working hours to attend this vital training.
“Every parent whose baby has died, equally deserves excellent bereavement care. It’s the very least we can do for them. So it is simply not good enough that so many midwives and other healthcare professionals either don’t have access to this training, or are expected to do this in their own time outside of work hours.
“Bereavement care training is essential to ensure the immediate and long-term wellbeing of families affected by pregnancy loss or the death of a baby. Sands can offer support and training to midwives, and other healthcare workers, to ensure they have the skills they need to both care for bereaved families, and to look after their own wellbeing."
- Clea Harmer, Chief Executive, Sands
More findings from the Sands survey
Overall, the survey found wide variation between different professional groups in the provision of bereavement care training. Midwives, obstetricians and gynaecologists have the best access, and A&E staff or paramedics have the least.
For example, only 39% of trusts and boards said this training was accessible to ultrasound practitioners, who may be the first person to spot that a baby has died, and only 4% were given time to attend during working hours.
Across the UK, an average of 49% of trusts and boards said that bereavement care training was available to staff across the range of healthcare professionals, but only 12% said time was given in working hours to attend.
Why bereavement care training is so important
Thousands of parents experience pregnancy loss or the death of a baby every year.
Amie’s daughter Charlotte was stillborn at 37 weeks in 2015. She found the care she was given at the time helped her and her partner on their bereavement journey and has gone on to set up a Sands support group in her home town.
“My immediate bereavement care was excellent. I was taken great care of when delivering my daughter and had lots of memory making opportunities with her following her birth.
“I was supported by lots of photos being taken, hand and footprints and had a 4Louis memory box where I could keep a lock of her hair. I also had the charity "remember my baby" come and visit me and they took some beautiful photos of us as a family and of my little girl which I truly treasure.
“My bereavement care once I left the hospital was a few phone calls from the bereavement midwife but otherwise nothing. Counselling lists were at least six months waiting list. I used Sands forums, my family and good friends as my support.”
- Amie, bereaved mother
Parents and family members have also told Sands about the poor or non-existent bereavement care that they experienced in the past, which shows the life long impact this lack of care can have on bereaved families.
“Things have moved on a long way since we lost our daughter Poppy Grace in 2013, in terms of bereavement care, but even then there were so many things that were handled badly (or not at all) by the services that should look after you. Being able to spend time with her and bury her was all a part of our grieving process.”
- Zoe, bereaved mother
Sands working to improve bereavement care
Healthcare professionals are an important part of the Sands community, and we work to support them to deliver good bereavement care.
The National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) is currently being rolled out in England and piloted in Scotland. It clearly sets out what good bereavement care training for staff should look like. Bereavement care training is one of the nine NBCP standards central to high quality bereavement care.
Sands offers evidence based training from experienced trainers to build the confidence knowledge and skills of staff to support families through pregnancy and baby loss.
Find more information at https://training.sands.org.uk