Baby heart monitor training to become mandatory in NHS Scotland

A midwife weighs a screaming and crying newborn baby
A midwife weighs a screaming and crying newborn baby
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Midwives and obstetricians in Scotland are to undergo mandatory training in how to monitor the heart rate of babies during labour in the wake of a campaign byparents whose babies died during childbirth.

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s chief medical officer, and Fiona McQueen, the chief nursing officer, have asked health boards across the country to put in place to training programmes covering foetal heart monitoring and obstetric emergencies.

Dr Calderwood said the monitoring had a “significant impact” on the number of stillbirths and babies born with difficulties.

A father whose son died after a series of failings by hospital staff said the move would “undoubtedly save lives.”

The campaign was sparked by families who lost babies at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire. A Scottish Government commissioned report into the “unnecessary” deaths of six babies at the hospital called for nationwide improvements in training for maternity staff.

Dr Calderwood said: “We have been very concerned about the number of stillbirths for some years and we have reduced those numbers by over 20 per cent in the past five years.

“We know there is more to be done and when we look at the figures we know that the baby heart rate monitoring has a significant impact on numbers of babies born with difficulties after birth and also with numbers of stillbirths.”

Fraser Morton, who lost his son, Lucas, after staff at Crosshouse failed to diagnose pre-eclampsia and did not properly monitor his heartbeat during labour, said he was “emotional” upon learning of the changes to training.

He said: “Many people played their part in achieving this.This will undoubtedly save lives and prevent some horrific injuries to both mothers and babies.”

A study by the Royal College of Gynaecologists found that in 70 per cent of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK, different care could have led to a different outcome.

Its Each Baby Counts project, which looks at more than 1,000 stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur on maternity units each year, aims to halve the number of “avoidable” stillbirths in the UK by 2020.

Professor Alan Cameron, the project’s principal investigator, described the announcement as “very welcome.”

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Families going through the heartbreak of losing a child deserve to know that all is being done to ensure the best possible care.”