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RCOG launches a new quality improvement initiative to reduce avoidable harm in labour

News 23 October 2014

Today the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) launches Each Baby Counts, a new five-year project which aims to reduce by 50% the number of stillbirths, early neonatal deaths and brain injuries occurring in the UK as a result of incidents during term labour by 2020.

Stillbirth rates in the UK remain stubbornly high. Current estimates suggest that around 500 babies a year die or are left severely disabled, not because they are born too soon, too small, or with a congenital abnormality, but because something goes wrong during labour. Some babies who are starved of oxygen at birth survive but are left with a severe brain injury, sometimes known as cerebral palsy. Sadly many of these babies will not survive infancy, or will suffer with a life-long disability.

The RCOG does not accept that all of these are unavoidable tragedies and has committed to halving the number of these events by 2020. From January 2015, the Each Baby Counts project, which is part funded by the Department of Health, will begin collecting and analysing data from all UK units in order to identify lessons learned to improve future care.

Bringing together the results from local hospital reviews of these cases will enable us to make recommendations for key actions to improve practice. The action plans will then be monitored by measuring the trends and geographic distribution of deaths and severe brain injuries in the future.

Each Baby Counts will be launched at the RCOG on Thursday 23 October 2014. The event is sponsored by the March of Dimes Foundation. Speakers include Professor Gordon Smith, Professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Cambridge, Professor Nikki Robertson from the University College London and Professor Lesley Page, President of The Royal College of Midwives. Topics to be discussed include; the epidemiology of stillbirths, the tragic long term consequences of brain injury at birth and the changing role of midwives in intrapartum care.

Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG Vice President for Clinical Quality, said:

“Stillbirth, neonatal death or the birth of a baby at full term but with brain injuries are life-changing and tragic events which often affect women and their families for many years.

“At the RCOG we do not accept that all of these are unavoidable tragedies and have committed to reducing this unnecessary suffering and loss of life by 50% by 2020.

“Our task is to collect data from all UK units to identify avoidable factors in these cases. We will monitor where these incidents occur and why.  Sharing of these sensitive data will provide us all with a unique opportunity to improve the care we provide and save lives.”

Professor Zarko Alfirevic, Co-Principal Investigator for the Each Baby Counts project, added:

“Most pregnant women receive exemplary care during labour in our NHS hospitals, but tragically, some babies die or are left severely brain-damaged.

“Currently, when these events occur they are investigated locally, however, because the lessons learned from these local reviews are not being shared, opportunities to improve care at a national level are being missed.

“The Each Baby Counts project aims to pool the results of local investigations to gain a national picture and develop actions to prevent these tragedies from recurring.

“This is one of the most ambitious and exciting projects in women’s health in the UK at the moment. Our goal poses a significant challenge but we are confident that we will achieve it.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


Further information about the Each Baby Counts project is available here.

For live updates from the event, please follow our Twitter account @RCObsGyn and the hashtags #EachBabyCounts and #stillbirth.

The March of Dimes Foundation is a nonprofit organisation that funds lifesaving research and programs and works to end premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. It was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to combat polio, and has since endeavored to provide mothers, pregnant women and women of childbearing age with educational resources, as well as supplying information and support to families affected by prematurity, birth defects, or other infant health problems.