Sudden and Unexpected Death in Childhood (SUDC)
There is a dearth of research evidence on bereavement support for families faced with unanticipated death of a child. Members of the CYP@Salford Research Group have been working collaboratively with the Greater Manchester (GM) SUDC Steering Group to conduct a review of five years of SUDC cases in GM. In addition, the team is working up a grant application to investigate the impact of providing dedicated bereavement support to families during the SUDC investigation process. Over the last five years the SUDC team (made up of Consultant Paediatricians, Senior Police Officers and Police Coroners’ Officers) has responded rapidly to the sudden and unexpected death of 309 children across GM, with a median of 57 cases per year.
Greater Manchester’s Rapid Response to SUDC started in January 2009. Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of childrenwas published in July 2018 alongside the Child Death Review: Statutory and Operational Guidance October 2018. These documents no longer make it a statutory requirement to investigate all sudden and unexpected deaths with a ‘Rapid Response’ team. They speak instead about a Joint Agency Response (JAR) that should occur in a more limited number of circumstances. The new guidance was discussed with the commissioners for the GM SUDC Rapid Response who requested that the SUDC on-call team continue to go out at the point of a child’s death. They requested that there should not be a narrowing of the inclusion criteria for such a response, and requested that the SUDC on call team continue to respond to all deaths that had not been anticipated as a significant possibility 24 hours prior to the death, or when the collapse that precipitated death was similarly unexpected.
Guidance from HM Governmentrequires agencies involved in the SUDC process to balance support with investigation but is not explicit about the model of bereavement support to use, nor the underpinning evidence base. To achieve this aim, the GM SUDC team has identified the need to include, in the future, a bereavement professional in the acute on-call team to focus on practical matters, predicting distressing events, signposting to additional services, and responding to unforeseen emotional and physical needs with expert, empathetic, timely care.
Our research team will work collaboratively with the SUDC Steering Group to review data from the last five years of SUDC cases in GM as well as to evaluate the impact of retaining a “rapid response” SUDC service as opposed to the, arguably less acute, “joint agency response”, together with the specific inclusion of bereavement support professionals.