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It is an absolute honour and a delight to be responding to this debate with you in the Chair, Mr Speaker—it is the first time I have done so—and congratulations.
To reassure people—mothers, particularly—I would like to make one or two points about the wider context of the debate: the safety of giving birth in the UK. The NHS in this country remains one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. The Government’s maternity ambition is to halve the 2010 rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths, and brain injuries in babies occurring during or soon after birth, by 2025. That ambition also includes reducing the rates of pre-term births from 8% to 6%. I reassure her that we have already achieved our ambition for a 20% decrease in stillbirths by 2020, so we are very much on track with those ambitions.
First and foremost, I express my heartfelt sympathies to every family who has been affected by previous failings in the trust’s maternity services. There can be no greater pain for a parent than to lose a child.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, the former Secretary of State, who asked NHS Improvement to commission the independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford in 2017, which is two years ago now—my hon. Friend was quite right about that. I take mild issue with one of her points, however, which was that NHS Improvement kept quiet about the failings. I find that slightly disappointing, because the raison d’être of NHS Improvement, which was also established by my right hon. Friend, is to investigate, expose and learn from failings, so I think she would agree it is not something that NHS Improvement would do. It is not in the culture of the organisation; the exact opposite is true.
The review being chaired by Donna Ockenden, a clinical expert in maternity and a registered midwife, was tasked with assessing the quality of previous investigations and the implementation of recommendations at the trust relating to new-born, infant and maternal harm. The original terms of reference covered the handling of 23 cases. The terms of reference have since been updated and were published in November to reflect the expanded scope of the review, and the review team will be in touch in the following weeks with the affected families to ensure that they are appropriately supported throughout the process. I am afraid I have to inform my hon. Friend and the House that the additional cases have now been identified and the total number relevant to the review now stands at 900, a small number of which go back 40 years.
The extra cases have been found by a number of means—from looking at previous incidents reported at the hospital to parents brave enough to come forward and talk about their own experiences. I am sure my hon. Friend will understand that, unlike with Morecambe Bay, which involved a small number of cases, it will take the review considerably longer to investigate 900 cases[This section has been corrected on