Every year around 4,000 women in England give birth very early because of complications with their pregnancy. Being born at 30 weeks or earlier is the leading cause of cerebral palsy, which has a lifelong impact on children and families.
Magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) given during preterm labour protects the baby’s brain and reduces the relative risk of cerebral palsy in very preterm infants by 30%. For every 37 mothers who receive MgSO4, one case of cerebral palsy can be prevented. It costs from just £1 a dose, making it highly cost-effective as well as clinically effective. However, the use of MgSO4 for fetal brain protection in England has been low with around one in three high risk babies not benefitting from it.
Health Innovation Networks worked together and with maternity teams to increase magnesium sulphate injections in preterm labour through the PReCePT initiative. Within two years it had been adopted in all maternity units with hundreds of cases of cerebral palsy avoided leading to potential savings of up to £367 million. Targets were exceeded in our region from the outset with high take-up MgSO4 rates sustained (around nine in every ten eligible babies) since the end of the national programme.
This was the fastest successful adoption into national policy and clinical practice of a perinatal evidence-based intervention. Updated NICE guidance includes magnesium sulphate for fetal neuroprotection. It has also been incorporated into the NHS Resolution Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts and NHS England Maternity Transformation Programme Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle.
‘New name … same aim: Building on a decade of health innovation’