UK bereavement care is inconsistent and under-resourced, report reveals

By Hollie Ewers on 11 December 2018 Bereavement Care Neonatal Death Sands Bliss

An audit of bereavement care provision in neonatal units across the UK reveals a wide variation in policies, procedures and resources.

The report published by the charities Sands and Bliss says most services lack sufficient specialist staffing input and appropriate facilities to support grieving families.

Following a survey of 100 UK neonatal units between May to July 2018, the results reveal that despite instances of good practice by individuals, many services are not set up to deliver consistent high-quality bereavement care.

Just 12% of units said they have mandatory bereavement care training and nearly a quarter (23%) of bereavement leads admit to have not received bereavement care training in the death of a baby, showing that health professionals are not getting the training and support they need.

While 83% of units reported to have access to at least one specialist bereavement lead, only 14% of leads have dedicated time in their work plan to provide support on the unit.

With regards to resources and facilities, the findings reveal 94% of units have access to at least one cuddle cot, however only 57% of bereavement rooms are away from the sound of other babies and just 15% are soundproofed.

Some 17% of units said that they do not have access to a specific space for supporting bereaved families.

The report recommends steps that all NHS trusts and boards can take to improve care, drawing from the National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) – a partnership between government, charities and the NHS – that sets out the standards for providing excellent care to anyone affected by pregnancy and baby loss.

RCM education advisor and the organisation’s lead on bereavement care Gail Johnson said: ‘The RCM appreciates the value that good bereavement care has to support families whose baby has died. It is disappointing that families still don't always get the best care.

‘There are now in place clear systems (the NBCP) for health professionals to follow to ensure that practitioners understand how they can best support parents who have suffered such a tragic loss.’

Read the full report Audit of Bereavement Care Provision in UK Neonatal Units (2018) here.