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Six in ten stillbirths preventable.

Opportunities to save the lives of hundreds of babies in the UK are being missed by hospitals, an investigation into stillbirths has found.

A detailed investigation into 85 stillbirths found care could have been better in at least two-thirds of cases.

In some instances, mothers were not offered the right tests, in spite of concerns that their babies had stopped moving.

There are more than 3,600 stillbirths in the UK every year and, in spite of improvements during the past few years, the rate remains among the highest in Europe.

The inquiry, led by the University of Leicester, focused on full-term stillbirths where there were no congenital abnormalities, which account for a third of all cases.

In almost half, women had contacted their maternity units, as they were concerned that their babies' movements had slowed, changed or stopped. But, in 50 per cent of these, there had been: "missed opportunities to potentially save the baby, ” the investigation report said.

For example, investigations had not always been offered when appropriate, or, when babies' heart rates had been monitored, traces had sometimes been misinterpreted by staff.

Many women with a higher likelihood of stillbirth - such as those at risk of diabetes - had not been checked properly or closely monitored. In some cases, staff had not acted even when it had been clear the foetus had failed to grow as expected.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president, Dr David Richmond, said: "Although fewer babies in the UK are stillborn today, it's desperately disappointing that the four recommendations from this report are the same as after the last confidential enquiry 15 years ago.

"Today's report suggests six in 10 of these stillbirths are potentially avoidable.  We can, and should. do better by the 1,000 families affected by stillbirths that occur before a woman goes into labour each year in the UK."

The inquiry, conducted by a team of academics, clinicians and charity representatives called MBRRACE-UK, looked at cases in 2013.

Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said that the government plans to reduce stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths in England by 50% by 2030.