Reducing Baby Loss — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:01 am on 20th July 2021.

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Photo of Ian Byrne Ian Byrne Labour, Liverpool, West Derby 10:01 am, 20th July 2021

It is an honour to serve under your chairship, Mr Gray. I pay tribute to Cherilyn Mackrory for securing this important debate, for her incredibly moving contribution and for her work on baby loss. I also pay tribute to my constituents in Liverpool, West Derby who have been in touch to ask me to speak today and raise their concerns, and to all those affected by the devastating loss of a baby. Nothing I can say here can do justice to the heartbreak they have been through, but I hope to do my best to raise some of the issues that constituents have shared with me.

It is truly heartbreaking that every day about 14 babies in the UK die before, during or soon after birth. The recent report by the Health and Social Care Committee notes the good progress made, but stresses the urgency with which actions must be taken to achieve the Government’s ambitions of reducing baby loss by 2025. The expert panel also raised serious concerns about aspects of continuity of carer, personalised care and safe staffing, and the Committee has made a series of recommendations, including for a Government commitment to funding the maternity workforce at the level required to deliver safe care to all mothers and their babies.

The report also states that the improvements in rates of stillbirth and neonatal deaths are good but are not shared equally among all women and babies. Babies from minority ethnic or socioeconomically deprived backgrounds continue to be significantly at greater risk, and as the charity Sands says in its report:

“Babies should not be at a higher risk of death simply because of their parents’ postcode, ethnicity or income.”

I wish to raise a case on behalf of one of my constituents today and to pay tribute to her. Can the Minister provide an update on the progress made since the important debate on covid-19 and baby loss in November and outline the steps the Department is taking on research and actions to make sure that nobody has to go through what my constituent has experienced?

My constituent is a health worker who became poorly last year with covid, 36 weeks into her pregnancy. At 37 weeks, she attended hospital with reduced foetal movement, and her daughter was monitored for five hours. When she got to the delivery suite, her daughter had died.

The hospital completed an investigation and found that there were many lessons to be learned. Policies and procedures were not correctly followed. My constituent should have been reviewed by a senior consultant and was not. There were delays of hours in transferring her to the delivery suite due to low staffing levels. The cardiotocography traces showed that her daughter was in distress, but unfortunately at the time that was not acted upon or escalated. If it was, she would have been taken for a caesarean section earlier in the day.

I close with the words of my constituent:

“I have spoken to other women who have been in the same position as me with covid at the same time but their hospitals have acted fast and thankfully their babies have survived. I have also spoken to women in other areas who have sadly lost their babies because their hospitals did not act appropriately. A gold standard of care should be followed nationally. It should not be a postcode lottery if your baby lives or dies.”