The National Bereavement Care Pathway

 Denise Symister 11 Dec 2019

The quality of care that a bereaved family receives during a pregnancy or baby loss can have a lasting effect; poor care can make their experience much worse. The quality of bereavement care varies regionally in England and Wales. However, all bereaved parents should be offered the same quality care no matter where they live. 

The objective of the National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) project has been to ensure that all bereavement parents are offered high quality care that is equal, sensitive to the specific needs of the family during any experience of pregnancy or baby loss, be that a miscarriage, termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly, still birth, neonatal death or sudden unexpected death in infancy up to 12 months in England and Wales. Scotland are developing a separate pathway.

The project was initiated in 2017 and led by SANDS, with a core group of partners including baby loss charities, professional organisations, the support of the Department of Health and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss.

The National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP) for Pregnancy and Baby Loss has guidance on five bereavement care pathways for professionals, focusing on different experiences of pregnancy or baby loss. The pathways are based on evidence of good practice across the country, and include:

·         Miscarriage Bereavement Care Pathway
·         Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Anomaly (ToPFA) Bereavement Care Pathway
·         Stillbirth Bereavement Care Pathway
·         Neonatal Death Bereavement Care Pathway
·         Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) Bereavement Care Pathway

And can be accessed at

These have been piloted in 32 NHS Hospital sites across England over the last two years and a further 11 new sites have signed up to the NBCP program, all working to the bereavement care standards.

An independent evaluation ( by Fiveways) reported that the use of National Bereavement Care Pathway improved bereavement care received by parents, increased the confidence of staff to provide consistently good bereavement care and enabled hospital teams and departments to work together to ensure consistency of care. Thus providing the impetus for all NHS trusts in England and Wales to adopt the National Bereavement Care Pathway ensuring all care and support surrounding pregnancy and baby loss meet these consistent standards.

Trusts may believe that they provide good consistent bereavement care; however, the NBCP provides an opportunity for them to review new ideas and practices to improve the bereavement care that they offer. This provides the opportunity to provide the same high quality patient centered care across the entire trust for any aspect of pregnancy or baby loss. 

NHS trust can register their interest on the NBCP website by completing a form available on the NBCP website. They will be provided with access to ‘How it Works’ Toolkit which will provide more information about the NBCP project.

A series of workshops have been scheduled in November and December for NHS trusts that may be in process or interested in adopting the NBCP guidelines and it offers an opportunity for attend and find out more information about the program.

Healthcare professionals can book their attendance at these free workshops via the links below:

The National Bereavement Care Pathway has also launched a new e-learning module for healthcare professionals designed to help hospital staff to support bereaved parents during a pregnancy or baby loss. The National Bereavement Care Pathway Supporting Parents for Pregnancy and Neonatal Loss e-learning module consist of six sessions, the first two were launched in September 2019.

The modules share elements of good bereavement care, including parents sharing their experience. The aim is to increase the consistency in the quality of bereavement care that is provided. The lack of specific training has often been cited as a barrier to providing good consistent standards of bereavement care. The first session: Bereavement Care after Pregnancy Loss or Baby Death - Learning for all, offers guidance for anyone when talking to bereaved individuals. It will help with guidance such as what to say or do around families that have experienced bereavement loss. This is intended to help decrease the anxiety about what to say to families who have suffered loss.

The second course Bereavement Care after Pregnancy Loss or Baby Death - Healthcare Professionals, helps the healthcare professional understand the important elements of bereavement care, such as delivering bad news, memory making, handling post mortem and histology discussion, discharge and aftercare.

The modules are available at the e-learning for Healthcare at:

Denise Symister

RCN Midwifery Forum Member

Case Manager Patient Care and Quality

Page last updated - 10/05/2020