Reducing Baby Loss — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:42 am on 20th July 2021.

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Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington 9:42 am, 20th July 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory for securing the debate. Her personal story, which she bravely told today and in a previous and moving Westminster Hall debate, has shone a spotlight on the pain and anguish faced by parents who suffer the tragedy of baby loss.

Almost 60,000 babies were born prematurely in 2019, with one in five pregnancies ending in miscarriage during the same period. The effects of miscarriage, stillbirths and neonatal deaths are devastating for parents, with impacts that can and do last a lifetime. It is essential that the Government continue with their 2015 ambition to reduce the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and maternal deaths in England by 50% by 2030. I welcome the provision in the NHS Long Term Plan to bring forward that ambition to 2025. To this end, the Government announced only this month, on 4 July, that they were making an additional £2.45 million available for NHS maternity staff in order to improve safety in care settings.

As the son of an NHS community midwife, I know the care, dedication and effort that our amazing midwives, such as the incredible team serving my community in Darlington, put into their vocation. They are on the frontline of safety, bringing new life into the world, and all too often they are at the side of parents who have suffered the worst loss imaginable. We must ensure that our midwives are provided with the skills to give the most appropriate care to parents at their time of bereavement.

In Darlington, I recently met Claudia and her husband, Andy, who have suffered two late-term losses—first, at 20 weeks of pregnancy and, more recently, at 18 weeks. Although Claudia was thankfully entitled to statutory sick leave to recover, Andy was not entitled to leave and had to negotiate with his employers to take time off. I am thankful to the two of them for meeting me to talk about their experience, the impact of those losses and the challenges they have faced. I am glad that they have continued to work with me to gather information and understand the patchwork of provision by UK companies whose employees suffer miscarriages. For the sake of Claudia and Andy, I am hopeful that the threshold for statutory bereavement leave will be revisited. The impact of a loss in the second trimester will almost always be just as painful, devastating and hard to overcome as a loss in the third trimester.

Another constituent, Angela, has shared her tragic story with me. Angela suffered two ectopic pregnancies and two miscarriages, and now feels that she will never experience one of the most natural things in the world: the honour of giving birth. Angela described to me that she feels crushed, and would like to see more support for people in her position than was available to her in the first years of the 2000s.

Improving maternity safety, delivering personalised care and improving training will all help to improve outcomes for future expectant parents across the UK. I sincerely hope that a future review of bereavement leave will be extended to those parents who suffer a miscarriage in the second trimester of pregnancy. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what more the Government are doing to achieve our national ambition to reduce baby loss.

I am thankful that the Government have taken and are taking firm action towards reaching the 2025 ambition that will reduce the number of future parents experiencing the pain that Angela, Claudia, Andy and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth have experienced.