Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of Business of the House (Prorogation) – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 4:46 pm, 8th October 2019

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that matter, because he brought forward a really important private Member’s Bill. The consultation concluded on 18 June after receiving over 350 responses. Officials are currently analysing all those responses and will report as soon as possible.

Much has been achieved since 2015 to improve the quality of bereavement care for parents, and I put on record the efforts of the all-party parliamentary group on baby loss, ably led by my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury with support from Members on both sides of the House. I will speak more about developments in bereavement care in a moment, but first I would like to talk about some of the progress made by the NHS on improving safety and reducing baby loss in maternity and neonatal services.

I cannot continue any further without putting on record my enormous thanks and gratitude to my right hon. Friend Mr Hunt, who has done more than anybody to further the cause of patient safety and to investigate the untimely deaths of babies, and across the NHS. I thank him from all of us for his incredible work in that space.

Members will be aware of the Government’s ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 2025, with an interim ambition to achieve a 20% reduction in those rates by 2020. The ambition includes similar reductions in maternal mortality and serious brain injuries in babies during or soon after birth, and a 25% reduction in the pre-term birth rate from the current 8% to 6% by 2025.

This ambition was set in November 2015, when the Lancet stillbirth series ranked the UK 33rd out of 35 high-income countries for stillbirths. Case reviews of stillbirths and neonatal deaths suggest that many such deaths might have been prevented by better clinical care, and the Morecambe Bay investigation report made 44 recommendations for improving the safety of maternity services.

In 2016-17, the Department of Health launched a range of initiatives that are being delivered by the NHS under the auspices of the maternity transformation programme, and I would like to mention a few of those achievements. Every NHS trust with maternity services now has a board that includes obstetric and midwifery safety champions to lead the development of an organisational safety culture. Every trust has received a share of the £8.1 million maternity safety training fund, and 30,945 training places for multidisciplinary teams were delivered in 2018-19, with courses focusing on training for childbirth emergencies in labour wards and in the community, as well as on leadership, communication and resilience.

Evaluation of the “Saving Babies’ Lives” care bundle found that clinical improvements such as better monitoring of a baby’s growth and movement in pregnancy, as well as better monitoring in labour, mean that maternity staff have helped to save more than 160 babies’ lives across 19 maternity units. An estimated 600 stillbirths could be prevented annually if all maternity units adopted national best practice. A revised version of the care bundle is currently being rolled out across England, and it includes elements to reduce the number of pre-term births and to optimise care where pre-term delivery cannot be prevented.