Infant First Aid Training for Parents — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:29 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:29 pm, 3rd April 2019

I join all colleagues in thanking my hon. Friend Sarah Newton for bringing this important subject forward for debate. She has brought to it her characteristic good sense and made her case extremely well. I join colleagues in paying tribute to her work as a Minister. I must say that I had to work with her regularly when she was Minister for Disabled People and I miss her terribly, but if today is anything to go by, I am sure she will keep me busy from her position on the Back Benches, and I thank her for that.

I thank all hon. Members who have participated today, particularly my hon. Friend Douglas Ross, who brought his perspective as a new parent. If he will forgive my saying so, as he was articulating some of the things he learned, it brought home to me how new parents can be a bit like rabbits caught in headlights, thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’ve got this fragile thing, what am I to do?” Again, that brings home the need for parents to feel confident in looking after their newborns.

My hon. Friend Dr Johnson gave a forensic exposition of the risks children face, and reminded us that we are equipping people with good, common-sense practical skills for things that can happen to anybody. She made her arguments extremely well. It is always a pleasure to listen to David Linden; again, he brought the subject to life beautifully with his own experience and spoke excellent common sense.

I am surprised to hear that Julie Cooper is a grandmother, but that probably explains why she speaks from such a well-informed perspective. I am glad that she shared Leanne’s story, because it was a perfect example of how going through a course made that parent feel confident about how to deal with a child in distress, and helped her to understand exactly what the condition in front of her was.

Faced with such evidence, we can only do more to spread the news to parents that it is a good idea to equip themselves with first aid skills. From an NHS perspective, as the hon. Lady mentioned, if parents know more about their children’s conditions, there will be fewer visits to A&E and fewer visits to GPs, and that will make the NHS more effective. In a sense, what is not to like?

There are many providers of such products in the market. We have heard about St John Ambulance, the Red Cross and other local providers, and I would not want to favour one or other of them, beyond highlighting that those courses are available, as well as material on the NHS app. I hear what the hon. Lady says—that that is no substitute—but I tend to see these things as complementary. Today’s new parents are of the smartphone generation and want to access material via apps, and we must ensure that we have a good spread of information available to parents.

The death of any child is a tragedy, and the more we can do to support people to be the best possible parents, the better, because it is vital to the longer-term outcomes for the health and life chances of their children. I know my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth brought her experience from her campaign to raise awareness of sepsis, which she referred to in her speech. Sepsis is a silent killer, and probably one of the most preventable causes of death, if we can identify it quickly enough. It is important that we continue to raise awareness so that people, and particularly parents, can spot the signs of sepsis and make decisions and interventions that will help sufferers.

Reference has been made to where we have these interventions and who can give new parents advice on first aid. I see midwives and health visitors as being on the frontline of doing that. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray explained that antenatal period when we are building a relationship and lapping up the information. The trust parents have in midwives and health visitors is a special relationship and presents a powerful opportunity for us to make an intervention to improve health outcomes for all. I see them as the cornerstone of ensuring that parents have the knowledge and skills they need before, during and after their baby’s birth, and that they have access to all the information they need.

There is information on the NHS website with tips for new parents, including information on the signs of a serious illness in a baby or toddler, but it is important that health visitors talk through common conditions with parents. It is a question of confidence; it is about making parents feel confident that they know what is happening to their child and that they can do their best to help them.

That was brought home by the account my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth gave of Rowena’s story and the fact that Rowena felt able to take someone’s child and help them because she had had that grounding. Such things can obviously go the other way, and none of us wants to be in the position of thinking, “What if?” or, “If only”. There is clearly every reason to encourage as widespread training in first aid as is possible.

My hon. Friend has a simple ask: she wishes the Government to fund a pilot project to generate evidence for a further roll-out of the project she has witnessed locally in Cornwall. The National Institute for Health Research welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, and any application will of course be judged in the normal way. Awards are made on the basis of the importance of the topic to patients and health and care services, value for money and scientific quality, so I encourage her and the team she is working with to apply for such a grant so that we can, as she says, demonstrate that the training has an impact on outcomes and provides better value for money for the NHS. It seems to me to speak for itself, but I encourage her to go through that process.