Responding to Unexpected Infant Deaths: Experience in One English Region

P Sidebotham, PS Blair, C Evason-Coombe, M Edmonds, EMA Heckstall-Smith, PJ Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Aim New national procedures for responding to the unexpected death of a child in England require a joint agency approach to investigate each death and support the bereaved family. As part of a wider population-based study of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (SUDI) we evaluated the implementation of this approach. Methods A process evaluation was carried out using a population-based study of all unexpected deaths from birth to 2 years in the South West of England between January 2003 and December 2006. Local police and health professionals followed a standardised approach to the investigation of each death, supported by the research team set up to facilitate this joint approach as well as collect data for a wider research project. Results We were notifi ed of 155/157 SUDI, with a median time to notifi cation of 2 h. Initial multi-agency discussions took place in 93.5% of cases. A joint home visit by police offi cers with health professionals was carried out in 117 cases, 75% within 24 h of the death. Time to notifi cation and interview reduced during the 4 years of the study. Autopsies were conducted on all cases, the median time to autopsy being 3 days. At the conclusion of the investigation, a local multi-agency case discussion was held in 88% of cases. The median time for the whole process (including family support) was 5 months. Conclusions This study has demonstrated that with appropriate protocols and support, the joint agency approach to the investigation of unexpected infant deaths can be successfully implemented.
Translated title of the contributionResponding to Unexpected Infant Deaths: Experience in One English Region
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291 - 295
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


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