Baby Loss

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:04 pm on 13th October 2016.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 2:04 pm, 13th October 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for that. The solutions are, frankly, not rocket science; a bit more sensitivity and common sense would go a long way towards alleviating an awful lot of pain and trauma.

The suggestions in my Bill, or a variation on my Bill, would go some way to providing some comfort to parents such as Hayley and Frazer at this difficult time. It would also provide more data to aid the analysis of why stillbirths happen and hopefully suggest what can be done to jumpstart a resumption of falling numbers from last decade’s plateau. For those who say that the physical act of registering such a child alongside those registering a healthy birth could open up wounds and exacerbate the parents’ grief—we have just heard that—I am sure that a more discreet and empathetic procedure could easily be devised. We could even do it online, you never know.

The Bill had nothing to do with changing the law on abortion. It did not propose to change the status quo on the entitlement to maternity benefits or bereavement entitlement, although I think official recognition would make it easier to secure appropriate empathy and flexibility from employers. The Government have already rightly made changes to maternity allowance guidance to ensure that mothers whose babies are stillborn after 24 weeks receive the benefits to which they are legally entitled; the process has been made easier.

The wheels turn slowly. I was making some progress with my Bill. I am particularly grateful to the former Minister, my hon. Friend Dr Poulter, who with his own clinical experience recognised the problems in this area. He worked with me, with various royal colleges and others, and we had a big stillbirth roundtable at Richmond House at the beginning of 2015, involving the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives, Sands, NHS England, the Miscarriage Association and other relevant bodies. I think we found a way ahead in a hugely complex area that is not easy to solve.

A new law was introduced in New South Wales, Australia, whereby a formal recognition of loss certificate is issued in such circumstances, and it has official status. If we could investigate something like that, perhaps we could get back on track with this problem.

We are talking about something that should not happen and that medical technology and innovation are not required to solve. It is something that should not be subject to the restraints and constraints of funding that might apply within the national health service. We are talking about a bit of common-sense admin, but a really important bit of common-sense admin, for somebody who has had to go through this traumatic experience.

In paying tribute to the extraordinary testimonies we have heard today from people who are far more expert and who have had far more first-hand experience—mercifully—than me, may I gently ask the Minister to put this matter back on the agenda as part of improving the whole issue of baby loss? We could do an awful lot of good for an awful lot of our constituents if we could just get this one simple thing done properly.