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Deaths of 24 stillborn babies probed by Scots health board

Bosses at NHS Forth Valley launch review to investigate reasons behind the increase.

Stillbirths: Most of the deaths happened at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
Stillbirths: Most of the deaths happened at Forth Valley Royal Hospital. James Nicoll

A Scots health board is investigating the deaths of 24 stillborn babies in its area last year.

Bosses at NHS Forth Valley have launched a review to investigate the reasons behind the increase, which saw the stillbirth rate rise to twice the national average in one three-month period.

Most of the deaths happened at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, although some also happened outwith hospital.

The health boards says their investigations into the stillbirths have "not identified any significant issues or concerns" and and added that they are "committed to the ongoing delivery of high quality, safe and effective maternity care".

An independent external review will also take place to "ensure we identify all potential learning", a statement from NHS Forth Valley added.

The statement said: "We monitor the level of stillbirths closely and, as the number in the first half of 2016 was higher than the national average, we took the decision to carry out an internal review.

"Although the total number of stillbirths in 2016 was higher than the previous year the numbers fell consistently throughout the second half of the year during which time they were similar to previous years.

"The number of stillbirths in Forth Valley has also been consistently below the national average during the previous five years.

"A number of the stillbirths being reviewed occurred out-with hospital and stillbirths can be caused by many different factors including accidents (such as falls and trauma-related injuries) fetal abnormalities, genetic and medical conditions.

"Despite medical advances it is not always possible to predict or prevent stillbirths however it is important to look at the circumstances surrounding each individual case.

"The review to-date has not identified any significant issues or concerns and we are committed to the ongoing delivery of high quality, safe and effective maternity care.

"We are also currently in the process of arranging an independent external review to ensure we identify all potential learning.

"NHS Forth Valley is also involved in a number of national initiatives to further reduce the number of stillbirths. This includes early assessments to identify women at higher risk of stillbirth, regular fetal growth checks and education sessions to help women recognise any changes in fetal movements during pregnancy.

"We are also participating in a multi-centre trial which aims to reduce levels of fetal mortality through the delivery of specific care, treatment and interventions.

"All cases of stillbirth are reviewed on an individual basis and are also reported to the relevant professional and national bodies."

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