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

The hon. Gentleman is right. We are still going forwards, although nowhere near as quickly as we would want to be going, but there have been some backward steps along the way. A lot of the changes that we have introduced have not yet had the opportunity to take full effect, and I am hopeful that as we move forward will begin to see neonatal death rates reduce. As I just mentioned, when babies are born at or close to full term, the rate has dropped significantly. It is pre-term births that are causing a lot of concern for us, which is why we are putting continued effort into this issue.

In the long-term plan that was published in January, the NHS committed to accelerate action to achieve the national maternity safety ambition. Maternity services will be supported to implement fully an expanded “Saving Babies’ Lives” care bundle across every maternity unit in England by 2020. The development of specialist pre-term birth clinics will be encouraged in England, which should help very much.

NHS England and NHS Improvement will continue to work with midwives, mothers and families to implement the continuity of carer model, so that by March 2021 most women will have a named individual caring for them during pregnancy and birth and postnatally. That will help to reduce pre-term births, hospital admissions and the need for intervention during labour. It will also improve women’s experience of care.

Let me return to bereavement care. Members will be aware that for three years the Department of Health and Social Care has provided funding to the charity Sands for it to work collaboratively with other baby loss charities and the NHS to develop and pilot the roll-out of a standardised national bereavement care pathway for parents who have experienced baby loss, whether through miscarriage, termination after receiving a diagnosis of foetal abnormality, stillbirth, neonatal death or, indeed, sudden infant death. The pathway sets out nine standards for good bereavement care and has so far been adopted by 40 trusts. I hope that many more will follow.