National Standards for Bereavement Care following Pregnancy Loss

August 10th 2016

Today, Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris launched the HSE National Standards for Bereavement Care following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death.

These new standards clearly define the care parents and families can expect to receive following a pregnancy loss or perinatal death. The standards will be implemented and applied across the health service in all appropriate hospitals and settings.

Launching the standards, Minister Harris said, "Today marks a new beginning for bereavement care services for parents who have the devastating experience of a pregnancy loss or perinatal death. I am pleased that the standards will ensure that clinical and counselling services will be in place to support women and their families in all pregnancy loss situations, from early pregnancy loss to perinatal death, as well as situations where there is a diagnosis of a life-limiting or fatal foetal anomaly.  I am grateful to the many families who generously shared their experiences during the strategy consultation process and offered suggestions on how care could be improved.  I trust that their contribution, the work of the Bereavement Care Standards Development Group and the group now charged with implementing these standards will ensure that all families who have the terrible experience of a pregnancy-related bereavement will receive the care and compassion they need."

Dr Keelin O’Donoghue, Consultant Obstetrician and Senior Lecturer Cork University Maternity Hospitals explained; “The publication of these standards marks another significant step forward for the health services and is a direct expression of our commitment to compassionate care for patients. All Maternity Hospitals/Units will now establish or develop further Bereavement Specialist Teams to assist and support parents, families and professionals dealing with pregnancy loss. These teams will comprise staff members who have undertaken specialist and extensive education in bereavement care and will include a dedicated clinical midwife specialist in bereavement care for each maternity unit. They will be supported in their work by staff from other disciplines including obstetricians, paediatricians, neonatologists, chaplains, social workers and palliative care teams. The new standards also acknowledge the impact of pregnancy loss and perinatal death on staff and the importance of having formal structures in place to support staff. ”

The standards are built around four central themes

  1. Bereavement Care  which is central to the mission of the hospital and is offered in accordance with the religious, secular, ethnic, social and cultural values of the parents
  2. The Hospital  to ensure a system is in place to provide bereavement care and end of life care for babies that is  central to the mission of the hospital and is organised around the needs of babies and their families
  3. The Baby and Parents to ensure each baby/family receives high quality palliative and end of life care appropriate to his/her needs and to the wishes of his/her parents
  4. The Staff: so that all hospital staff have access to training education and training opportunities in the delivery of compassionate bereavement and end of life care in accordance with their roles and responsibilities

The standards have been developed in response to recommendations in both the HSE’s Investigation report in to the death of Savita Halappanavar and the report of Dr. Peter Boylan following his review of maternity cases at Portlaoise Hospital.

 The HSE wishes to acknowledge the work of the expert group who developed the standards. This group included representatives from obstetrics, midwifery, psychiatry, paediatrics, social work, chaplaincy and the Irish Hospice Foundation. Their extensive work was informed by a national audit of bereavement services in maternity units, an extensive public consultation process that yielded 164 submissions, consultation with practitioners and voluntary support organisations that support parents and families as well as the development of the new National Maternity Strategy and the draft HIQA Maternity Standards.

Download copies of the HSE National Standards for Bereavement Care following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death 

Last updated on: 10 / 08 / 2016