New care standards for bereaved parents

New standards aimed at helping parents who have suffered pregnancy loss or perinatal death have been launched by the HSE.

According to figures from the HSE, around 14,000 miscarriages take place every year and in 2013, there were 500 perinatal deaths, which included 301 stillbirths, 162 early neonatal deaths (within seven days of birth) and 37 late neonatal deaths (between 8 and 28 days after birth).

Other types of pregnancy losses include terminations and ectopic pregnancies.

According to the new national standards, dealing with the loss of a baby or pregnancy can be devastating and parents and families ‘may need a range of immediate and longer term supports to help them with their bereavement'.

While the role of family and friends is crucial, health and other support services can also play ‘a positive and helpful role for parents during this time'.

The purpose of the standards is to enhance bereavement services for parents affected by pregnancy loss or perinatal death. They cover all situations, including when a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormalities is made.

There are four main standards:
-Bereavement care is central to the mission of the hospital and is offered in accordance with the religious, secular, ethnic, social and cultural values of the parents
-The hospital has systems in place to ensure that bereavement care and end-of-life care for babies is central to the mission of the hospital and is organised around the needs of babies and their families
-Each baby/family receives high quality palliative and end-of-life care that is appropriate to his/her needs and to the wishes of his/her parents
-All hospital staff have access to education and training opportunities in the delivery of compassionate bereavement and end-of-life care in accordance with their roles and responsibilities

According to consultant obstetrician in Cork University Maternity Hospital, Dr Keelin O'Donoghue, these standards ‘mark another significant step forward for the health services'.

"All maternity hospitals/units will now establish or develop further bereavement specialist teams to assist and support parents, families and professionals dealing with pregnancy loss. These teams will comprise staff members who have undertaken specialist and extensive education in bereavement care and will include a dedicated clinical midwife specialist in bereavement care for each maternity unit.

"They will be supported in their work by staff from other disciplines including obstetricians, paediatricians, neonatologists, chaplains, social workers and palliative care teams," she explained.

The standards were developed in response to recommendations contained in the HSE's investigation report into the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway, and the report of Dr Peter Boylan following his review of maternity cases at Portlaoise Hospital.

Launching the new standards, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said that they mark ‘a new beginning for bereavement care services for parents who have the devastating experience of a pregnancy loss or perinatal death'.

"I am pleased that the standards will ensure that clinical and counselling services will be in place to support women and their families in all pregnancy loss situations, from early pregnancy loss to perinatal death, as well as situations where there is a diagnosis of a life-limiting or fatal foetal anomaly," he said.

He also thanked the many families who shared their experiences during the consultation process, offering suggestions on how services could be improved.

The standards can be viewed here


[Posted: Wed 10/08/2016]

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