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Leading infant sleep expert Professor Helen Ball, from Durham’s Infancy and Sleep Centre, has published a report and new research calling for a multi-agency approach for the prevention of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

The ‘Eyes on the Baby’ project was developed in response to the Government’s National Child Safeguarding Practice Review panel recommendations in 2020, which advocated for a multi-agency approach to SUDI prevention.

A review of UK policy

New research led by Helen, published recently in the journal BMJ Public Health, examines how local authorities address multi-agency SUDI prevention. The study found significant variations in policy and approaches across England’s local authorities and safeguarding partnerships – with only a few local authorities having well-designed policies, detailed guidance or training for staff.

The research and the ‘Eyes on the Baby’ report are outcomes of the pilot project undertaken in County Durham to provide tailored training and guidance for people working in family-facing services that have everyday contact with families and babies, giving guidance on what to see, what to do and what to say. The report details 12 key recommendations for implementing multi-agency SUDI prevention.

All Eyes on the Baby project

The ‘Eyes on the Baby’ project aims to co-produce, pilot, and evaluate a multi-agency workforce training and implementation programme for SUDI prevention, working with local authority public health leads, family facing adult and child services, members of the local Child Death Overview Panel, key NHS staff, and third sector partners.

So far in Durham, this has included staff from a broad range of areas across the local authority and partner services, with high engagement from social care services including Early Help Practitioners, One Point Hubs, as well as Drug and Alcohol support staff.

The ‘Eyes on the Baby’ project in County Durham is a collaboration between Durham Infancy & Sleep Centre (DISC), Durham Integrated Care Board, Durham County Council Public Health Team and partners. The project was funded by National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC).

Next steps for the research

The project has now been extended to Northumberland where training of the multi-agency workforce gets underway this month.

The Lullaby Trust, who provide specialist support for bereaved families, promote expert advice on safer baby sleep and raise awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is a key supporter of the project.

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