Bereavement support in Somerset

Lucy was appointed as a Bereavement Project Lead Midwife for Somerset Local Maternity & Neonatal System to align how Somerset Foundation Trust and Yeovil District hospitals  care for families experiencing pregnancy or baby loss using the National bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP).

(The NBCP was devised by a range of charities and organisations to highlight the core standards that should be in place for families who sadly experience a pregnancy or baby loss).

The aim is to ensure the highest standards of bereavement care is given to families experiencing a miscarriage, ectopic or molar pregnancy, termination for foetal anomaly, stillbirth, neonatal death, or sudden unexpected death in infancy up to a year of age, for all families across Somerset.

How the service works

Lucy’s role started in February 2021 for two years, with the aim of ensuring all families in Somerset can access the same high levels of bereavement care and support across the county.

SFT and YDH have signed up to the NBCP pledge to implement their national standards to support families. This ensures that is a minimum standard of what should be offered and delivered nationally, with access to this at whatever hospital they attend.

These standards focus on ensuring.

  • a personalised care plan is in place
  • staff training is provided
  • emotional and mental health support is offered
  • bereavement leads are in place in all areas
  • bereavement rooms are available
  • informed choices are offered
  • there are options to make memories
  • a system is in place to signal a bereavement
  • support and resources are given to staff.

Working with the public and stakeholders

The Bereavement Project Lead Midwife for Somerset Local Maternity & Neonatal System works with a wide range of  stakeholders, including the public, mental health services, hospitals, and primary care.

This helps ensure that women and their families get the best possible support,  that we gather as much information as possible to make informed decisions with our team and put families at the heart of everything we do.

Working with Somerset Maternity Voices Partnership , a specific pregnancy and baby loss group was created. This group have co-produced a pregnancy and baby loss care in Somerset survey and developed a new draft personal bereavement care plan.

We have supported the Somerset bereavement strategy work, working with local charity leads with the development of a baby loss section within the “End of life care and bereavement” website. This is a centralised website signposting all local pregnancy and baby loss charities, locally and nationally.

Lucy Blackmore says “Joint working with families has enabled me to gain a better and deeper understanding of individual situations that our families might experience. It has been invaluable to have their input and thoughts about their care to help drive improvements and shape the guidance and resources we are implementing. This ensures we are creating meaningful resources for parents that they can use.

“I have also been working with the third sector, which has helped to identify the support that is already on offer and highlight any gaps that need addressing, whilst establishing the best method and tools to signpost families in one, easy to find place.”

A woman who has experienced loss and is part of the Somerset Maternity Voices Partnership said

“I have felt honoured to be a part of something that will help so many bereaved parents. Having suffered baby loss, myself and provided with no care or support, to see something coming together to make a difference to other parents in future is a massive step towards creating the right support for everyone. Including people with lived experience in the design and implementation has been so valuable and really shows how co-production ensures a service meets the needs of those that need it.”

Jackie Shrimpton, Somerset Bereavement Network Co-ordinator “Lucy’s bereavement project work has developed an in-depth understanding of the impact of pregnancy and baby loss. She has linked with the Somerset Bereavement Network (a group of local and national bereavement support providers and representatives from across ICS organisations) and more widely to share valuable insight advising and support other members.

“In addition, through leading a strategy sub-group on this topic and through project work, Lucy has identified key areas of development going forward as input for wider Somerset bereavement strategy development work.

Just one example of this sharing of project expertise is the creation of public bereavement support webpages for pregnancy and baby loss, highlighting local and national support provision available for Somerset residents.”

Available at: .  (Selecting ‘Member of the Public’ will present the option for the bereavement support information for a range of type of losses including pregnancy and baby loss).  

Programme Highlights

  • Pregnancy and baby loss care in Somerset survey introduced
  • Introduction of maternity mandatory training for all midwives
  • New furniture for the bereavement room in Yeovil’s maternity department, with soundproofing on order
  • New furniture ordered for the Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic in Yeovil
  • Abigail cold cots have just arrived at both hospitals to allow parents to spend more time with their babies, alongside the facilities we already have.
  • Your care plan if your baby dies during pregnancy, shortly after birth or is expected to’
  • Joint hospital maternity guidelines in development
  • “Cradle charity” implementation imminently, to support early pregnancy loss, with tissue packs and comfort bags for those requiring an inpatient stay following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
  • 3D casting introduced at Yeovil District Hospital
  • Post mortem update session delivered by perinatal pathologist
  • Supporting the implementation of the new Maternal Mental Health Service
  • Funding to support counselling being offered to families across Somerset through the voluntary sector
  • Wave of Light event – held at both hospitals as part of baby loss awareness week
  • Multiple training days with (midwives, nurses, and counsellors) in conjunction with the maternal mental health service and local charities.

Lessons Learnt

Starting the project during Covid has meant our hospitals have had to adapt to caring for patients in unprecedented times. This has had an impact on care with visitor restrictions negatively impacting on people’s experiences and engaging with stakeholders who have been extremely busy providing clinical care. Although the need to continue to provide highest standards remained throughout.

Next steps

 Personal care plan is in development

  • Develop an e-learning resource for early pregnancy
  • Look at maternity pathways
  • Rainbow clinic provision across county to support those who are pregnant again following a loss, (this is a specialist clinic that cares for women in subsequent pregnancies after a loss)

Measuring success

Since the role started in 2021,  we have made lots of progress across the core areas identified, including staff and family feedback, improving spaces in the hospitals and valuable staff training.

The key outcomes have been to align services against the NBCP standards, including a quality improvement project which aims to increase use of personalised care plans to support and empower families in their care.

We also want to have a clear pathway, involving specialised obstetric care, for women who become pregnant again following a loss across Somerset so that families have continuity of care.

 Key benefits for families that sadly experience this would be equity to ensure that everyone regardless of the type of loss experiences a high standard of care compliant with the NBCP standards.