Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Will Quince Will Quince Conservative, Colchester 7:14 pm, 9th October 2018

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I will absolutely thank and pay tribute to that charity. In so many cases, bereaved parents want to do something to make a difference and to provide a legacy for or mark the life of their child, however short, and raising money to support our NHS or to provide support for bereaved parents is hugely worth while. If I heard the hon. Lady right, an incredible £300,000 was raised: I pay tribute to the work that parents across the country do to raise such sums, which support the NHS in providing world-class facilities. I will discuss this further in a bit, but although we do have world-class facilities and bereavement suites some of our hospitals do not have them, which is an issue in and of itself.

I have thanked charities, but it is also important to thank the clinicians and support staff within the NHS who work so hard in this area. They really are heroes, and their work is incredible. Midwives do an incredible job, because although they are so often there at the best time in someone’s life—when a child is born—they are sometimes sadly also there at the very worst time in someone’s life. Their ability to, in effect, wear both hats and provide that caring, compassionate, empathetic support is a credit to them. We really do have world-class staff in our NHS.

I also thank all the clinicians who are working so hard on the national bereavement care pathway. Numerous colleagues have mentioned it already, and it is important to reference the progress made so far. I do not want this to be a back-patting debate, because I will move on to some areas where the Government could do more, but we have achieved quite a lot in just over three years. The first, and probably most significant, achievement was the Government’s commitment to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death by 20% by 2020 and by half by 2025. I note that that target has been moved forward—I think the target three years ago was 2030—thanks to the work of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Health Ministers and clinicians. Having spoken to the Department and to clinicians up and down the country, I understand that those targets are realistic and achievable and that we are on track to achieve them, which is quite incredible.

However, it is important to note that even if we achieve the target of reducing stillbirth and neonatal death by 50%, that still means that around 2,000 or 2,500 babies are dying in the UK every single year and that a similar number of families will be going through a horrific personal tragedy, so we must ensure that we have world-class support. That is why the national care bereavement pathway, which I think it is fair to say was a concept initially drawn up based on the APPG’s work with charities, is game changing. The pathway is game changing, because what we had and continue to have across our NHS is world-class bereavement care, but it can be found only in pockets. It is not consistent across the NHS.

A particular hospital trust may have one or perhaps even two specialist bereavement suites and one, two or maybe more specialist bereavement-trained midwives or gynaecological counsellors, and all sorts of charities may be supporting bereaved parents within that hospital trust. In other hospitals, however, there may be no bereavement suite and perhaps just one or even no specialist bereavement-trained midwives or gynaecological counsellors. That is an issue, so a national bereavement care pathway that provides consistent, compassionate, empathetic care and support across our NHS, whichever hospital one visits, is so important.