Vicky Sleap, NCMD Manager, shares details of what 2021 has in store for NCMD:

2021 is finally here and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year. “A new year, a new start” is what my grandmother used to say. Never has that sentiment been more true than for going into this year. But leaving 2020 behind and moving into 2021 has felt like a blessing and a curse. I have seen many war metaphors used to describe the battle we are in with COVID-19 and there is no doubt this virus has been an assault on our lives but also on our way of life. It has felt like a blitzkrieg from which we have not yet quite managed to extract ourselves. Back in April 2020, I wrote a blog at the start of the pandemic in which I was feeling optimistic and positive about what NCMD could do to help in this “war”. Nine months on, I still believe in our role in this, but I am certainly feeling more reflective about where we are now and as we go into another national lockdown thinking about what is to come in 2021. We have two things now that we didn’t have when all this started, vaccines and hope. I have to confess to shedding a tear when the first people were vaccinated. It felt like such a landmark moment in this battle, akin to the heroes of Bletchley Park cracking the enigma code. I think the emotion was a mixture of relief that help was at hand and that the most vulnerable in our community were being prioritised, and hope that the end of this terrible virus was in sight. So, as we move into a new year, with the prospect of a new start without COVID on the horizon what does NCMD have in store for 2021?

We continue to have the privilege of engaging with many people across our Child Death Review (CDR) community. I have spoken with many CDOP Chairs, Designated Doctors, Hospital Mortality Leads, CDRM Chairs, CDOP Co-ordinators and JAR practitioners about both the challenges they experience and their ideas for how the process or systems can be improved. The fact that they have kept the delivery of CDR obligations going in such difficult circumstances is a testament to their skill, care and professionalism, and we will be implementing changes to the database on 1 April to reflect their suggestions.

Despite the challenges faced in 2020 in linking NCMD with PMRT, work is continuing on this. It is hard to overstate the size and complexity of this task. I am therefore keen that we get it right before deploying it into the live environment to ensure that we are successful in reducing the burden of work for you all, and that what we produce is easy to use for all involved.

We will be publishing three reports this year. These will enable us to finally show you the detailed and comprehensive analysis we have done using your data. The first of these reports, which is our thematic report on deprivation and child mortality is currently going through the quality assurance process, and is due for publication in the spring. For me, this report represents not just the data and issues described within it, but the culmination of a five year journey to realise a vision where the value of the CDR process and data could be shown – and this report does that in spades. I cannot wait for you all to see it (to receive notification when it’s available, sign up to our mailing list)!

We are continuing with the development of resources for CDR professionals and this year, among other things, I will be writing some tips on how to complete a good reporting form. Alongside that, our free webinar series will also continue. This provides a welcome opportunity for us to hear from you and to answer your questions.

Finally, we are of course continuing with our real time surveillance of all deaths as well as the development of our alert system. Everyone has done – and continues to do – an exceptional job at notifying us promptly, including advising us when COVID is present or suspected to be an indirect factor in the death they are reporting. This continues to be extremely valuable intelligence that is passed upwards to NHS England on a weekly basis, and helps to inform actions at the highest level.

So, there is lots to look forward to from NCMD in 2021 but most of all I dare to hope that, when we make it out the other side of this pandemic, 2021 might be the year I can see you all again in person, without a face mask. Maybe then, we can share a much-needed smile – or even hug? – in person (and not via a screen) to celebrate together and acknowledge those we have sadly lost along the way.




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