A RISE in stillbirths have been blamed on a lack of face-to-face appointments in the first Covid wave.
It comes after a coroner ruled at least five adults deaths were linked to remote GP consultations.
45 babies were stillborn after the onset of labour between April and June 2020Credit: Getty – Contributor
A probe into 37 stillborn cases by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch found key pregnancy checks were hindered by the slashing of in-person appointments last year.
It also noted doctors were unable to properly access medical records, which meant medics and midwives were not as prepared to spot potentially fatal complications and monitor growth.
The investigation was launched following an increase in stillbirths after the onset of labour referred to the HSIB between April and June 2020.
This means the baby was thought to be alive when labour began, but was born after 37 weeks of gestation with no signs of life.
The majority of deaths happened due to placenta problems, compromising blood flow to the baby.
In one of the cases, the mum had been too afraid to go to an appointment.
But in 19 there were no signs of life in the babies on the first hospital visit during labour, with 11 of the women having called for help and were told to stay at home.
A tragic 45 stillbirths took place, a leap on the 24 which happened during the same period in 2019.
None of the women who lost their babies had Covid, but the report found the changes caused by the pandemic could have affected their care.
It also found that Covid-safe policies asking women to go to their check-ups alone meant that vital communication about their babies may not have sunk in – especially if English wasn’t the mum’s first language.
The HSIB report said: “The proportion of consultations undertaken remotely is not known and the impact of remote consultations is not clear…
“However, there was evidence that remote consultations impeded certain activities.
“Specifically, there were fewer opportunities for physical examinations to be carried out, limiting the opportunity to establish trends for [growth] measurements.”
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director of professional midwifery at the RCM, said: “While this report doesn’t reflect the full national picture it is nonetheless devastating for the women and their families who have lost their babies…
“The RCM has been clear in its advice throughout Covid-19 that its crucial women attend in-person appointments with their midwife so observations such as blood tests and foetal growth can be measured.”
An NHS spokesman added they were “committed to providing safe, compassionate maternity services”, with face-to-face appointments offered to anyone with concerns during pregnancy.
Last week Greater Manchester senior coroner Alison Mutch sent five reports to health authorities – including local trusts, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and NHS England – requesting they take action on remote appointments, a Health Service Journal (HSJ) investigation found.
Mr Javid said: “I think everyone can understand why during the height of the pandemic that GPs couldn’t provide access in the normal way.
“But we are way past that now, life is starting to return almost back to completely normal and as that is happening it should be happening in our GP surgeries too, and more GPs should be offering face-to-face access. We intend to do a lot more about it.”
We pay for your stories!
Do you have a story for The Sun news desk?