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National Bereavement Care Pathway to Improve Care for Bereaved Parents


Sands are working to produce a National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) in collaboration with other charities and with the support of the Department of Health and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss.

Pregnancy loss and the death of a baby is not a rare occurrence. Thousands of parents each year will experience the devastation of their baby dying before, during or shortly after birth or within the first years of life.

The quality of care that bereaved families receive when their baby dies can have long-lasting effects. Good care cannot remove parents’ pain and grief, but it can help parents through this devastating time. Poor care can and does make things much worse.

The bereavement care received by parents varies hugely regionally. All bereaved parents should be offered the same high standard of parent-centered, empathic and safe care when a baby dies.

The National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) has been developed by a “Core Group” of national charities and organisations, including stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands, premature baby support charity, Bliss, and the Royal College of Midwives. The scheme will be piloted in 11 sites across England, with the hope that it will lead to improved care for parents suffering the loss of their baby.

Launching in October, the NBCP will trial new training, materials and guidelines for medical professionals, helping to improve the care and support parents receive in the aftermath of stillbirth or neonatal death. The new bereavement pathway will be used in cases where parents have lost a child during pregnancy, or up to 12 months after the birth, and is intended to provide equal, effective, high-quality, sensitive and safe care to all parents when their baby dies.

Across the 11 sites chosen as part of the initial NBCP rollout, medical professionals will work closely with the project team to implement the new bereavement pathway, improving the services offered to parents. The sites were chosen as they are broadly representative of capacity, specialism and geography, and will begin implementing the NBCP from October this year.


The sites include:

  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital
  • Liverpool Women’s Hospital Trust
  • York Teaching Hospital NHS Trust
  • Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust
  • Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
  • Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (Barnstaple Hospital)
  • Medway (Maritime) NHS Foundation Trust
  • West Middlesex, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital
  • Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Trust — Queen’s Hospital
  • Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust


Following the successful roll-out of the NBCP at the trusts listed above, the pathway will be introduced at a second wave of pilot sites in April 2018, before the scheme is launched on a national level in October 2018.

Care improvements welcome — but more is needed to prevent stillbirths


The quality of care bereaved parents receive can make all the difference in their recovery following the loss of a baby. While good care can never take away the pain and grief of stillbirth or neonatal death, it can help to improve the long-term outlook, giving parents the help and support they need to begin to rebuild their lives.

News of the NBCP’s launch comes just weeks after a damning report emerged highlighting the UK’s shocking record of stillbirths and neonatal deaths, in which over two dozen NHS trusts were found to have higher than expected rates of perinatal mortality. Every day in the UK, 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth, leaving thousands of parents facing the trauma of losing their child.

While the UK’s stillbirth and neonatal death rate is falling, it’s still higher than many other countries in Europe. There are also huge regional discrepancies in the number of stillbirths, suggesting that individual hospital trusts must do more to try and prevent infant mortalities.