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Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of Business of the House (Prorogation) – in the House of Commons at 6:03 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Leader of the Independent Group for Change 6:03 pm, 8th October 2019

It is a real pleasure to follow Andrew Percy. My contribution to the debate will touch on a lot of what he said about the situation, which is undoubtedly true. It struck me again because of two constituents in particular who came to see me. I had my children at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. My constituents went in there expecting, as most of us do when we go into hospital to give birth, that they would be taking their baby home after a safe delivery. Emily was their second child, and she died—she was a stillborn baby. That was at the end of 2013.

Until I met Richard and Michelle Daniels, I had not appreciated some of the issues we are talking about. When I gave birth to my babies, I had two wonderful deliveries, although they were very painful. However, I do not talk too much about the great pleasure, joy and magic I experienced in becoming a mother on those two occasions. I felt real shock when Richard and Michelle came to tell me that, although they got the most terrific care, love and support from the remarkable staff at the QMC when Emily was born dead, there was no facility at all, as the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole described.

It is true that there is nothing worse that could happen to any of us than to lose a child, but it must be even more heartbreaking to lose a child and then to be surrounded by people experiencing all the wonderful joy and celebration of a new birth and of having a new member of their family, but not to have somewhere to be able to say goodbye properly or to have quiet time. People also need the opportunity to bring in other members of the family so that they, too, can say goodbye. I was just blown away in my shock and horror when I heard that, in Nottingham, we had no such suite at all in the QMC or the City Hospital. That had been going on for many years, and one can only imagine how many people have suffered in that way, given all the touching speeches that hon. Members have made.

In early 2014, Richard and Michelle Daniels set up a charity called Forever Stars. They poured all their remarkable energy and dedication into making a great success of it, and they have raised over £400,000. Their first project was to install a serenity suite at the QMC—a place where a couple can go in the event of an unsuccessful delivery and the loss of a child. They can say goodbye properly, in the way that has been described, and siblings and other members of the family can come along. In due course, there was another serenity suite, at the City Hospital in Nottingham—again thanks to the Forever Stars charity that Richard and Michelle set up. That is now in operation.

By a remarkable coincidence, the hon. Members for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and for Colchester (Will Quince) set up their all-party in this place in 2015, and we had that first debate. I remember it distinctly. There were so many appalling stories that there was not a dry eye in this place, and that included your good self, Madam Deputy Speaker. All us were filled with a mixture of grief, horror and disbelief that so many people suffered baby loss with none of the proper facilities that they should have.

It is full credit to the Government of the time and to the former Secretary of State for Health, Mr Hunt, that they did not mess about. They took up the campaign, and huge progress has undoubtedly been made. It is thanks to a lot of cross-party working and the considerable efforts of the former Secretary of State and his team, as well as those two hon. Members and others, that we have seen such marked progress.

The work of Forever Stars continues. As you can see, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am wearing pink and blue. That was not necessarily my first choice to put on this morning. It was a bit of a bet with Mr Richard Daniels that I would do it. However, I wanted to do it because Forever Stars is painting Nottingham, and indeed Broxtowe, pink and blue. Like so many other charities that have come out of so much tragedy and that are doing great work, Forever Stars is raising awareness, on top of the other work that it does. We have heard why that is so important.

I, too, join the calls in the report that the Baby Loss Awareness Alliance put out today—“Out of sight, out of mind”—for specific work to be done to make sure we cater for grieving parents, siblings and other members of the family. I may one day be a grandparent, and it must be terrible for grandparents to see their own child and son-in-law or daughter-in-law suffer in the way that we know people do. We also know the effect these things have on siblings; we often forget them and how one explains things to them, and they often need support.

Forever Stars tells me that, in just the last 24 hours, it has had four calls from parents who have suffered a baby loss and who would very much like to be referred to the counselling or the psychological, and sometimes psychiatric, services that they desperately need. It is really important to ensure that those services are in place. I am told not only that 60% of parents surveyed want those services, but that nine out of 10 CCGs do not commission the talking therapies that Justin Madders rightly spoke about.

Forever Stars continues in its great work and is now raising funds to create a serenity garden for parents in Nottingham. There will be a service every quarter when parents and, of course, other family members can go along to say goodbye again to a child or baby they have lost.

It is really important to recognise that this place does some terrific work when it comes together in this way. The APPG has done that terrific work on a cross-party basis. It is all too easy in the current political climate for people to criticise Parliament and set it up against the people, but that would be wrong in many ways. This is an example of why that is just not true, because this place can do genuinely great work that touches the lives of real people.