Scotland was the first of the UK countries to establish a Stillbirth Working Group, bringing together health professionals, researchers, policy makers and Sands to support the target of a 15% reduction in stillbirths by 2015.

The Group, chaired by Dr Catherine Calderwood, is involved with a wide range of work to reduce stillbirths throughout Scotland. For example, members of the group have been involved with the Sands-led work to raise awareness of stillbirth through public health messaging, and to improve Units’ reviews when a baby dies so that changes can be made.

One of the areas of interest to the Group is the move to improve the organisation of NHS Scotland’s maternity services. The aim is to give women better access to consultant obstetricians and scans and other investigations when they need them. The Group has looked at this and fed back to the NHS Scotland team who are reviewing the current provision. There are, for example, opportunities to take some of the routine tasks away from experienced senior consultants when they are working outside the usual ‘9 to 5’. This would give them more time for the complicated pregnancies and deliveries that can happen at any hour, and where their expertise is most needed.

A stillbirth is more likely in women who smoke, and there has been a drive to reduce the number of women who smoke during pregnancy in recent years. The most recent figures published for Scotland show there is still work to do: in 2013, 18 in every 100 women were smokers when they had their booking appointment with the midwife, and 16 were still smokers at the time of their first health visitor appointment after their baby had been born. (Interestingly, in 2004, 24 women in every 100 were smoking at the time of booking, so in general fewer women are smoking these days.) NHS Scotland’s Ready Steady Baby website (http://www.readysteadybaby.org.uk/) and app have lots of information about stopping smoking, with links to organisations that can help, and it’s hoped that this will support midwives’ messages to women about the importance of stopping smoking.

The Infant Cremation Commission was established earlier this year by the Scottish Government in response to the revelation that babies’ ashes had been buried without the parents’ knowledge by staff at the Mortenhall Crematorium, Edinburgh.  The Commission’s aim was to identify the problems and make recommendations – of which there were 64 in its report – “to ensure that those involved have a clear and consistent understanding of the whole process that will enable them to assist families to make informed decisions, have their babies laid to rest as they wish, and have confidence that their wishes have been implemented.” The Commission’s report, published in June 2014 (the ‘Bonomy Report’), is available here www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00453055.pdf. Both Sands and the Scottish Stillbirth Working Group welcomed the report and its recommendations, and several members of the Working Group will be involved in ongoing work to support and review implementation of the recommendations. You can read Sands’ response to the report here www.uk-sands.org/news/news-release/2014-06-17/sands-responds-scottish-commission-infant-cremations-and-edinburgh.