I congratulate my hon. Friend Sarah Newton on securing this important debate. She has been a champion of raising awareness to reduce avoidable deaths through working with Sepsis Trust—sepsis is also a major killer of adults and children—and I am delighted that she has now lent her voice to the cause of infant first aid training for parents. As a paediatric consultant, this is an issue close to my heart.
My hon. Friend highlighted the alarmingly high number of cases where something could have been done to prevent a child’s death: 21% according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. I should declare my membership of that organisation. Working on a children’s ward for the last 15 years, sadly I have seen far too many of those 21%. However, I have also seen children whose lives were saved by passing members of the public, as was described earlier in the case of Rowena, by doctors or health professionals, or by visiting family members who just happened to spot something and were able to help.
My hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth powerfully described a case of a child choking. As we approach Easter and then summer, mini-eggs and grapes are particular culprits. Advice should include how to manage a choking child, as well as simple measures to prevent choking. Chopping up grapes into little pieces, sitting down while eating and not running about with things in the mouth are helpful in preventing choking, but it can still happen to anybody, young or old, at any time. We should all know some of the manoeuvres that can help, such as the one my hon. Friend described in the case of the baby choking. The baby should be held face down across the adult’s legs, so that the baby’s head is lower than the adult’s knee, and blows should be applied to the baby’s back, between the shoulder blades.
That sort of information does not take long to learn, but can have a huge impact and can be responsible for saving somebody’s life. The information is already provided to a number of parents. I have delivered infant first aid to parents whose children have been in hospital. Each of the neonatal units that I worked on in the midlands provided first aid training to parents before they left hospital, in part because pre-term babies are more vulnerable when they have just left hospital and in part to provide parents with the confidence to manage very small babies when they go home, as was described by my hon. Friend Douglas Ross. Training is also provided routinely to parents who have had a child die in the past, but obviously we want to look at prevention.
Emma Little Pengelly talked about contact with health visitors and midwives. Evidence shows that parents are particularly receptive to messages about healthcare and first aid when they have just had their baby or when they are expecting their baby, as my hon. Friend the Member for Moray mentioned. That is a time before life becomes really busy, when one can reflect on the joy that is to come and be well prepared for it.
There are lots of opportunities for first aid training to be provided. There are antenatal classes, where training can be signposted or provided, as well as nurseries. I strongly believe that the practical advice should not just include what to do when things have gone wrong, but how to stop them going wrong in the first place. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray mentioned burns. I remember the case of a child who walked past a lit candle; it caught her dress and she got severe burns to her whole front. In that case her mum knew what to do—drop her to the floor, roll her over and stop the burning—and treated the situation appropriately, but even so the injury was severe and could have been prevented if the candle had not been left on such a low table.
Using seatbelts and car seats are among other simple measures that we know we should to do. One major cause of preventable deaths in children is drowning, so there should be simple advice about making sure that children are not left unsupervised around open water. I have seen this particularly in situations where there has been open water and a group of people, often at a big family event, where everybody is looking after the child but there is not one specific person watching to see that they do not end up in the water. At one of my children’s christenings, I was upstairs in a bedroom on the other side of the house when I saw from the window that a friend’s little boy had gone towards the small pond we had in the garden and that he was on his own. I ran downstairs and was fortunate that he had not gone into the pond by the time I got there. My husband was out with a digger the following day getting rid of the pond. It was not worth the risk, but if people have such ponds they need to be carefully managed. I have certainly seen children drown in those situations.