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Parents of sudden-death children 'let down by NHS'

The NHS is failing some parents whose children die unexpectedly, a leading paediatrician has told BBC Panorama.

About 50 children's deaths in the UK every year are termed as "sudden unexplained death in childhood" (SUDC). Little is known about what causes them.

Gavin and Jodie's two-year-old son Addy died unexpectedly in November 2022.

BBC Panorama followed the parents over nine months as they searched for answers to why their son died - and whether it could have been prevented.

Even after a forensic post-mortem examination, no-one could work out why the little boy went to sleep and never woke up, so his death was categorised as SUDC.

When a child dies unexpectedly, a review is held to gather information about what happened. The NHS is required to assign a key worker to help bereaved parents to navigate this process, and provide emotional support. The role of key worker can be taken by a range of practitioners and is often a specialist nurse.

However, even though it is a mandatory requirement, a survey carried out by the Association of Child Death Review Professionals (ACDP) found that more than half of NHS areas in England do not have a specialist nurse to visit parents after an unexpected death.

"It makes me really angry," says paediatrician Dr Joanna Garstang, the chair of the ACDP, who runs one of the few teams in England that support parents.

"Bereaved families after the sudden death of a child are the most vulnerable people. And if we don't put in early support… we're setting these parents up for a lifetime of misery."

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Source: BBC News, 5 February 2024


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