A NORTH-East health trust has been named one of the top ten in the UK for its work in preventing stillbirths by detecting small babies.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation is one of the best in the country for detecting babies which are small for their gestational age, which has led to a 23 per cent reduction in stillbirths compared to the previous ten-year average.

The Perinatal Institute, a not-for-profit organisation set up to improve maternity care, has found that most growth-related stillbirths were down to care not being good enough, and has set up guidelines for hospitals to follow.

Now 81 per cent of hospital trusts are using the guidelines, and the University Hospitals of North Tees and at Hartlepool have among the top detection rates for smaller babies.

Early detection supports early intervention, leading to a reduction in the risk of stillbirths.

Nationally, still birth rates have fallen by 860 a year.

The reduction exceeds Government targets to reduce stillbirths by 2020.

Previously women would have a scan and the baby’s size would be calculated on the basis of the size of the abdomen around the baby. Now the mother's BMI, ethnicity and age are taken at the booking-in appointment and measurements taken throughout her antenatal visits if low risk.

But if the measurements cause concern they are sent for a scan for further investigation.

Mothers with high-risk pregnancies now attend serial sans to calculate the baby's birth weight, increasing the opportunity to detect any abnormalities.

Risk factors include smoking, higher BMIs, diabetes and increased maternal age.

The Trust introduced a growth scan clinic and extra training for staff by specialist midwives.

Stephanie El Malak, Head of Midwifery at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “The teams have worked really hard to implement this latest initiative and make it work not only for themselves, but for the women of North Tees and Hartlepool. It’s a fantastic achievement and they should all be very proud – a great example of putting patients first and improving outcomes for all.”