Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:10 pm on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Hugh Gaffney Hugh Gaffney Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill 7:10 pm, 9th October 2018

It is a real pleasure to be here for this important debate in the Chamber today. I would like to pay tribute to colleagues across the House for sponsoring the debate and for the work they do to keep this important issue on the agenda. I do not want to speak for too long, but I do have a few words to say. Baby Loss Awareness Week is an important part of the calendar and provides important support networks for bereaved parents, their families and friends. I recall sitting in the House for the debate on this issue last year, and I know that all colleagues agreed that it represented Parliament and politics at their best. In its 16th year, I welcome Baby Loss Awareness Week 2018 and the 60 charities that support it. Those charities are based in all parts of our United Kingdom, and they are doing brilliant work.

Before talking about a link to my own constituency, I want to place on the record my own personal experience of facing the loss of a child. My son was eight months old when he took ill with meningitis and we were given 24 hours to see whether he would survive. Twenty-eight years on, he has survived, thanks to the NHS staff at Monklands Hospital. Today I thank them once again on behalf of my family.

Fifteen babies die every day in the United Kingdom either before, during or shortly after birth; the number of unexplained deaths in children aged over one is not easy to identify across the whole of the United Kingdom. I am particularly interested in the discrepancies in bereavement care. I am firmly of the view that there is a need for bereavement suites in all neonatal units, with increased training and improved staffing levels. This is because 41% of neonatal units have no access to a trained mental health worker and many still have no dedicated bereavement facilities. I hope that we will see the kind of policy decisions in all four nations of the United Kingdom that will allow progress to be made. I welcome the commitment in Labour’s 2017 manifesto that pledged to “significantly reduce infant deaths”. We support the Government’s commitment to reducing the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 50% by the year 2030.

I want to say a few words in honour of my colleague, Gordon Encinias. Gordon was a councillor in Coatbridge South and a colleague of mine in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. Gordon died earlier this year and I know that I speak for many in the Scottish Labour family—and, more importantly, North Lanarkshire Council—when I pay tribute to Gordon and thank him for all his work. I mention Gordon because he and his wife lost children to infant deaths themselves, and they committed themselves to championing this issue through supporting Bumblebee Babies, a charity based in North Lanarkshire. Gordon helped it to find a property and premises and gave it his support. It is led by Brenda Murray and now supports parents in all parts of our United Kingdom. I pay tribute to Brenda and all the staff at Bumblebee Babies, and to my late friend Gordon Encinias.

I want to pay tribute to all hon. Members involved in this, particularly my hon. Friend Vicky Foxcroft and the hon. Members for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and for Colchester (Will Quince). Importantly, I also pay tribute to all those parents who have lost children, and I pledge to use my office to do all I can to ensure that the right support is there at the right time. Finally, I pay tribute to my mother, Helen Gaffney, who recently passed away at 86. Her first job as a young nurse was to look after stillborn children, and she looked after those angels as if they were her own. Rest in peace, Mum.