Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of Business of the House (Prorogation) – in the House of Commons at 5:34 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Antoinette Sandbach Antoinette Sandbach Independent, Eddisbury 5:34 pm, 8th October 2019

It is always a pleasure to follow Patricia Gibson, who has been a real support on the all-party parliamentary group on baby loss and who always speaks incredibly powerfully not only about her own experiences but about what needs to change in future. I am grateful, too, to the Leader of the House, who provided time for this debate, and to Victoria Prentis, who helped with a pincer movement to encourage him to table the debate.

I thank Will Quince, who used to co-chair the APPG with me, and I give thanks particularly to Mr Hunt, whose support for this issue when he was Health Secretary provided the political will to drive through the change that we have seen in the past few years, which has been incredibly important. It is an important testament and legacy that he has left, particularly given the reduction in numbers. There is a need for cultural change, and there is a need, too, for cultural change around mental health support, as seeking such support often had a stigma attached to it.

Mr Hammond, the former Chancellor, allocated £1.4 million of LIBOR funding to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital so that it could build a brand-new bereavement counselling centre. I recently went to see that centre, and it will be an exceptional resource in the north-west. Any parent who has lost a child, no matter how long ago, can go to Alder Hey and receive free support and counselling. I would like to make sure that people are aware of that. Alder Hey also operates a hotline that can signpost parents towards help. The Government can be really proud of the steps that they have taken to tackle some of the deep-rooted issues in maternity provision, stillbirth rates and neonatal deaths.

Progress achieved on the national bereavement care pathway should be celebrated. An alliance between the third sector and the national health service has achieved real change. Evaluation of the pathway showed that 92% of parents who had been on the pathway felt that they had been treated with respect; 89% felt that they had been communicated with sensitively; and 87% were offered access to ongoing emotional support after they left hospital. Trusts that have taken up the pathway have seen a real improvement in the care that has been offered to parents.

Further to the point made by the right hon. Member for South West Surrey, clinicians using the national bereavement care pathway felt that they were better prepared to communicate with bereaved parents, and the proportion had increased to 92%. The proportion of professionals who felt capable of discussing bad news with bereaved parents increased from 66% to 72%. There are other excellent results from the evaluation, but I will not go into them here.