Premature birth clinic shortlisted for prize

Tuesday 24 July 2012


Baby

The team from the preterm surveillance clinic has been shortlisted for an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for its success in reducing the number of premature births in South East London. Premature, or ‘preterm’, births are those before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

When the clinic first opened in 2004, Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham had one of the highest-risk populations in the country, with 9.2% of births being premature. This rate has dramatically improved: 7.2% of births at St Thomas’ are now preterm, compared with 7.8% in the local area and a UK average of 7.3%.

We have the largest preterm birth clinic in the world and other UK specialist clinics, as well as those in the USA, China and India, now follow our model.

Whilst St Thomas’ has seen a decline in preterm births, the number across the UK is on the rise because they can be difficult to predict and prevent. Our clinic is bucking the trend by pioneering a test that more accurately predicts preterm birth. This test measures the level of a protein known as fetal fibronectin (fFN) that reliably indicates whether a woman will give birth prematurely.

Professor Andrew Shennan, who leads the team, said: “We are delighted that the preterm surveillance clinic has been recognised for its innovative approach. It is stressful for women identified as being possibly at risk of preterm birth, so a more accurate test can bring peace of mind. We try and provide our patients with the highest level of support and information.”

Another benefit is that the fFN test should lead to significant cost savings for the NHS. “For each patient in our clinic, we saved on average £1,800 when the test was introduced, as low risk patients no longer have to stay in for observation,” says Professor Shennan. With nearly 60,000 premature births per year in the UK, the national uptake of this new technique could lead to savings of over £100 million a year across the NHS.

The winner of the NHS Innovations Challenge Prize will be announced in September.

Last updated: July 2012

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