National Standards for Bereavement Care

The HSE National Standards for Bereavement Care following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death clearly define the care parents and families can expect to receive following a pregnancy loss or perinatal death. Many families generously shared their experiences during the consultation process and offered suggestions on how care could be improved. The standards will be implemented and applied across the health service in all appropriate hospitals and settings to provide 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 expert group who developed the standards 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, 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.

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