Resignation Statement from our Executive Director, Lynsay Allan

I am very saddened to be leaving the Scottish Cot Death Trust after almost 9 years as Executive Director. This has not been an easy decision to reach but it is one which I feel right for me to take.

This role is a privileged one for many reasons. Speaking directly with the many bereaved families I have met over the years; I am constantly amazed at the strength and compassion bereaved families have, and all that so many go on to achieve in terms of fundraising and their work in raising SUDI awareness. I am grateful to know everyone I have met through the SCDT.

One aim of the Trust is to share information with professionals and the public alike about ways to reduce the risk of a SUDI. Each family spared the heartache of losing their child and every child who is able grow, learn and be a part of society, is what we all strive for. Over decades we have learned much about SUDI and have realised that this umbrella term includes different outcomes. Some sleep related infant deaths we still do not fully understand and we hope that science and genetics research will help us understand more over time. Other infant deaths we do comprehend have happened due to tragic sleep accidents. These we know we can help prevent if everyone shares consistent messaging.

Since 2015, SCDT has been working hard with Scottish Government to advise that their proposed change of messaging carries risk that may mean more babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly. The strongest global evidence base, from several studies, tells us that young babies – 3 months and younger – are 5 times more at risk of SUDI when they share an adult bed with a sleeping parent or parents. A Scottish study also showed the risk of SUDI was as much as a 10-fold increase when a young baby sleeps in an adult bed.

The recently published updated messaging from Scottish government does not clearly state these aforementioned risks, and instead only highlights the increased risks when other factors are involved – such as parental smoking, drug, and alcohol use, when a baby was born prematurely/was of low birth weight.

Most SUDI that happens in Scotland, now involve bed sharing. It is vitally important that we help parents understand what things help keep their baby safe when they sleep. This helps us prevent some sleep related baby deaths.

I do not feel able to continue working in a role directly supporting families when I know that some families will be advised to bed share by professionals, using the new safe sleep resources from the Scottish government. Parents may not be aware of all the information available to them to make an informed decision themselves on where and how their baby sleeps. I will find it painful to speak with newly bereaved parents who might tell me they were advised that bed sharing with their baby would not carry any significant risk of SUDI. These are the situations where statistics do not feature but families in distress do. One family whose baby dies when the death could be prevented is one too many.

In 2022 it is unfathomable to me that a public health message about keeping babies safe omits some key information which could prevent some SUDI.  In 1990, research studies were showing that tummy sleeping did pose a risk for SUDI. This was information that health professionals and government were becoming aware of but failure to act quickly enough to share this information with the public, meant that thousands of babies sadly died. The ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign here in the UK was in response to this epidemic.

The SCDT safe sleep resources include information surrounding all of the risk factors – to enable professionals advising parents to have informed discussions and for parents to make informed decisions to keep their baby safe.

The SCDT is in a strong position and is reassured that many countries across the world also follow the strongest evidence base to inform safe sleep messaging, to help keep the very youngest among us, safe. This includes the recently published updated American Association of Paediatrics safe sleep guidance.

I am committed to the work of the SCDT and hope to continue with the charity in a Trustee position and as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee. I believe in everything the SCDT stands for and the work it does across Scotland and beyond. My heart remains with this wonderful charity and those we exist for.

I am confident the SCDT Trustees will ensure a smooth transition until a new Executive Director is appointed and I will do what I can to assist this process. Furthermore, all support services for families across Scotland will remain in place as we continue our work as Scotland’s only charity dedicated to the issue of sudden unexpected death in infancy.