“GREATER pace” is needed from the county’s maternity services if they are to meet national targets by 2021, according to a report.

Local Maternity System chiefs say progress has been made towards the targets required in the Better Births review, as Shropshire’s hospitals have their lowest-ever recorded stillbirth rate.

LMS programme manager Fiona Ellis adds that new ultrasound and fetal heart monitoring practices will help reduce stillbirths and neonatal deaths further.

Better Births 2016 was a national maternity services review, and the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin LMS developed its “transformation plan” in response.

This included reducing rates of stillbirth, neonatal death, maternal death and brain injury during birth by 20 per cent.

In her report for the Telford and Wrekin Council Health and Wellbeing Board, Ms Ellis writes that there were 3.7 stillbirths per 1,000 pregnancies in 2018 – the “lowest-ever recorded rate of stillbirth” for the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust.

“This compares to a national crude stillbirth rate of 3.9 per 1,000 and the West Midlands rate of 4.3” she adds.

“Neonatal deaths are also showing a reducing trend.”

She says the addition of ultrasound scanning clinics at Sutton Hill allow pregnancies to be monitored more closely, and newly-introduced equipment in delivery suites allows babies’ heart rates to be monitored throughout labour.

“Reducing the high smoking-in-pregnancy rates locally has been identified as a key factor in reducing the stillbirth rate,” Ms Ellis writes.

“The national direction is that rates of smoking in pregnancy are expected to be lower than 11 per cent.

“As an LMS we are currently reporting 16.3 per cent overall with Shropshire reporting 13.8 per cent, year-to-date, and Telford and Wrekin reporting 19.7 per cent.”

The local plan also included a target to give all pregnant women personalised care plans and ensure they are seen by the same set of practitioners throughout pregnancy and post-birth.

Ms Ellis writes: “The LMS is on target to enable all women accessing maternity services to have a personalised care plan by March 2020.

“Women are now supported by their midwife to make a decision about their preferred place of birth.”

Overall, she says: “Steady progress is being made in relation to delivering the required transformation.

“However, greater pace is required if all the transformation targets are to be met by March 2021.

“The challenging context in which local maternity service is operating [sic] is having an impact upon the scale and pace of transformation achieved to date.”

The Health and Wellbeing Board will consider Ms Ellis’s report when it meets on Thursday, March 21.