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Absolutely, and I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. Yes, the Department is liaising closely with Donna Ockenden about what support she needs to conclude her work as soon as possible, for the sake of the families. As he will understand, the review cannot be rushed; it has to be done properly and thoroughly. We have to get to the bottom of this matter, which is why Donna Ockenden is being supported in the way she is. Anything she needs in order to conclude this review successfully she will have. I thank my right hon. Friend for his personal comments. As he will know, and as he has said, I am utterly committed to patient safety, to eradicating avoidable harms and to making the NHS the safest place—not one of the safest—in the world to give birth. The review is important in the light of that.
As well as the families who came forward when the review was launched, media coverage has raised awareness of it, prompting further contacts with the trust and the review team. More recently, Donna Ockenden herself made a final appeal for any more families who believe that they have been affected to come forward. I am grateful to all the families who have voluntarily agreed to assist the review, although that may mean their having to revisit painful and distressing experiences. We expect it to conclude by the end of the year, at which point the Government will work closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement to consider the next steps.
As I have said, it is important for the review to be allowed to proceed unhindered, and without speculation about its conclusions or findings. However, I am very aware that current maternity patients at the trust may want reassurance that they will be safe and looked after. My hon. Friend the Member for Telford referred to “red lights”. I can reassure her that steps are being taken at the trust. It is completely understandable that people are asking questions, but I have asked for a meeting with the interim chief executive, because I want to see for myself that those steps are working. She has already made a public statement to reassure all families using the trust’s maternity services that much work has already been done to address issues raised by previous cases and to improve services, while acknowledging that the trust—obviously—had further to go.
During the November inspection of the trust’s maternity services, the Care Quality Commission found that the trust had taken action following the last inspection in April, so it was clearly listening and implementing the recommendations. As a result, there had been a number of improvements. Although more work was still needed, staffing had increased, and morale and governance had improved. However, I expect the CQC to keep a close eye on what is going on.
Let me end by restating the strength of our commitment to improving the quality and safety of maternity care. As I have said, the Government’s maternity ambition is to halve the 2010 rates of stillbirth, and we are on track to do that, which is incredibly important. Let me also say to my hon. Friend that, although I cannot reveal to her what is happening in the review—I cannot find out what is happening myself, because Donna Ockenden needs that autonomy—my door is always open. If my hon. Friend wants to discuss with me at any time what I have said tonight about the improvements that are being made at the trust, she need only pick up the phone. I am there to answer any questions that she may have on behalf of her constituents, and I ask her please not to hesitate to contact me if she needs further reassurances.
As I have said, the NHS remains one of the safest places, although we want to make it the safest place. What is most important is to ensure that the tragic cases that the Ockenden review is examining are not repeated anywhere else. That must be the objective. Women deserve a better maternity experience, and that is what we are determined to achieve.
Question put and agreed to.