WHAT IS SANDS AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
Sands is the Stillbirth & Neonatal Death charity. Founded in 1978 by bereaved parents, its vision is of a
world where fewer babies die. One where, should a baby die, anyone affected can receive the best care
and support for as long as they need it.
Sands exist to support anyone impacted by the death of a baby for as long as needed. They work with
health professionals and the NHS to reduce the risk of baby death and to improve the quality of
care whilst also funding vital research to stop babies dying. They’re proud to have led the way in reducing
baby deaths through research investments, and of driving forward changes in policy and practice.
WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?
14 babies die every day in the UK. The quality of care received by bereaved parents and families following
such traumatic circumstances is extremely important. Sadly, babies will of course continue to die in the
midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving bereaved families across Milton Keynes in desperate need for
specialised support to reduce the impact of isolation and better cope with their grief.
The World Health Organisation recognised from the outset that the COVID-19 outbreak would have
widespread psychological and mental health implications and that throughout the pandemic vulnerable
families would depend on access to bereavement support.
Covid-19 is impacting bereavement care in several ways; procedures mean some mothers are attending
antenatal scans on their own and receiving news of the death of their baby alone. They also have to labour
and give birth on their own. In some hospitals there’s less time and space for parents to spend time with
their babies making memories, as babies’ bodies are removed quickly in body bags and mothers sent
home. This situation is aggravated by the fact that bereavement midwives are seconded to other roles.
Delays to postmortems and reviews, and cancellation of appointments to discuss these with parents, are
also causing distress and concern. Newly bereaved parents are having to cope with both the practical (for
example funeral arrangements and registration of death) and emotional impact of the death of their baby
under social distancing which means they don’t have the same sort of comfort and support from family
and friends that they might otherwise have. For other bereaved parents it’s difficult to cope with
anniversaries under lockdown, and other deaths can trigger and exacerbate grief.
WHAT DIFFERENCE DID THE APPEAL AWARD MAKE?
Award funding means that Sands have been able to develop an urgently required toolkit of guidance and
compliance, enabling bereaved parents and families in Milton Keynes to access vital bereavement support
The accelerated transition of support services to online and digital engagement is now providing safe
alternatives that reach everyone in need. In this way Sands has been able to respond quickly and to
continue operating much needed bereavement services - a lifeline for so many in these unprecedented
This bereavement support also extends to those health professionals and NHS staff likely to work in
settings where pregnancy loss or death of a baby may occur.