Baby Loss

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:40 pm on 13th October 2016.

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Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health 2:40 pm, 13th October 2016

I will come back to my hon. Friend’s point just as I conclude.

These striking facts are why the Department of Health will continue to work closely with Public Health England and voluntary sector organisations to help women to have a healthy pregnancy and families to have the best start in life. A new information campaign will be launched shortly, and I encourage all hon. Members to support it during the launch period.

I would like to say a few words before I conclude about the importance of delivering good bereavement care for those families who have experienced baby loss, which was a topic raised by many hon. Members. Having not gone through the experience myself, I can scarcely comprehend how devastating it must be for parents to lose a baby. It is important that parents receive appropriate care and support as sensitively as possible when that occurs. The MBRRACE report that I referenced stated that 60% of parents currently receive a high standard of bereavement care, but that clearly leaves 40% who do not, which is not good enough.

Since 2010, we have invested £35 million in the NHS to improve birthing environments, including better bereavement suites and family rooms at some 40 hospitals, to support bereaved families. I have seen some of those rooms, including the superb suite opened last month in the Medway Maritime hospital, which I think was one of those that indicated that it did not have such a suite when my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury undertook her research. We have heard from my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry about the recent improvement in Nottingham.

We have been working with Sands, the Miscarriage Association, the Lullaby Trust and others to understand the challenges that maternity services face and to highlight areas of good practice. I am pleased that the all-party group’s report, which was published this week, recognises the work that we are supporting to develop an overarching bereavement care pathway to help to reduce the variation in the quality of bereavement care provided across the NHS.

In response to the comments made by my hon. Friend Tim Loughton in his intervention and elsewhere during the debate, I should like to say that I have been impressed by comments made about the distress caused by the registration of post-24 week baby loss, often in the same place where mothers with young babies are registering births. I can well imagine that that compounds the sense of grief. It is appropriate that we look at best practice and the common-sense delivery of registration to see whether it could be spread more widely, so I will ask officials to look at that, but I am not promising legislation.

I again thank again all hon. Members for participating in the debate and their deeply moving contributions. In particular, I thank those who secured the debate for their work in driving the all-party group and raising awareness across the nation. It is important that we as a Government try to drive an improvement in outcomes, and I reassure hon. Members that the Government are fully committed to reducing the number of babies who die during pregnancy or in the neonatal period, and to supporting those families who are bereaved. Although the Baby Loss Awareness Week events here in Westminster culminate with today’s important debate, other events are continuing to take place throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. I should like to encourage everyone to join in the global wave of light, which we heard about earlier this afternoon, by lighting a candle at 7 o’clock this Saturday 15 October and letting it burn for one hour in remembrance of all the babies who have died during pregnancy or at, during or after birth.