09/10/2017 00:01 BST

NHS Must End The Unfair 'Postcode Lottery' Faced By Bereaved Parents, Charities Warn

'No parent should be left to cope with the death of their baby alone.'

Parents grieving the loss of a baby are often forced to endure being placed in maternity wards full of new mums and their babies, due to a “postcode lottery”, charities have warned. 

More than 40 charities working to prevent baby deaths and pregnancy loss, have formed a coalition to petition the NHS, as they state current levels of support offered after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death are “worryingly inconsistent” across the country.

Currently, only 46% of health trusts give their staff mandatory bereavement care training, according to the charity SANDS, and one in three don’t have a dedicated bereavement room - a space in a maternity unit where parents can get away from families who have just welcomed a child.

It is very worrying that parents have told us they can hear the sounds of crying babies, and mothers and fathers congratulating each other on the birth of their healthy babies, while they grieve,” said Dr Clea Harmer, SANDS chief executive.

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In addition, 41% of neonatal units don’t have a single person trained as a mental health worker, according to a report by baby charity Bliss.

“We believe every parent should be offered the bereavement support they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it,” said Harmer.

“I urge all those responsible to make sure no parent is left to cope with the death of their baby alone.” 

“It is long overdue that the NHS makes the provision of excellent bereavement care mandatory across the UK. Despite claims that it is a priority, there is still a shortage.”

To coincide with the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October), the charities are calling on the government to include a mandate for a National Bereavement Care Pathway, which has four founding pillars:

1. All UK hospitals be required to offer “excellent” bereavement care.

2. A member of staff appointed to lead on bereavement care in every department where pregnancy loss and baby death occurs.

3. Available and accessible bereavement rooms in all hospitals.

4. All health care professionals to receive the highest standard of bereavement care training.  

Harmer said: “Good bereavement care is rooted in simple acts of kindness and respect, giving a family whose world has fallen apart the time they need with their baby, and minimising anything that could add to their suffering.”

Pregnancy and stillbirth charity Kicks Count is also part of the coalition.

Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of Kicks Count, told HuffPost UK: “We fully support the work that SANDS is doing to highlight the postcode lottery of bereavement care that exists in the UK.

“It is still a sad fact that 15 babies are stillborn in the UK every single day – one of the highest rates in Europe.

“For those women who experience loss, bereavement support can help to make their situation a little bit more bearable.

“We hope the NHS will look at how a more comprehensive support programme can be achieved.”