Black Maternal Health Week — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:02 am on 14th September 2021.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 10:02 am, 14th September 2021

It is Eastwood in the Scottish Parliament. Forgive me, Mr Hollobone. As my hon. Friend said, studies in America show that even among women who come from fairly well-off backgrounds and who do speak English, black and Asian women are still disproportionately affected.

If I worked in maternity care in the NHS and heard someone like me saying these things, I would naturally feel defensive. Instead, what I ought to do is think about it, read up on it, question myself—and I do regularly—and really listen to what people are saying. I have no doubt that the vast majority of healthcare workers care deeply about the people they work with. The debate is more about the system itself and the inbuilt structural inequalities. For those who may be watching and do not know this, if we say the health service is structurally racist, it does not mean it is populated by racists: it means the way in which it is structured is for white people from certain backgrounds. It takes into consideration their needs, culture and language, with very little flexibility to take into account anyone else’s. Changing the structures makes them more flexible, and that is what the debate is calling for, in addition to addressing the very specific problems that have been talked about. After all, our NHS is not a white person’s NHS, it is an NHS for everybody.

I had decided that I was only going to speak for five minutes, and I think if I had not taken interventions then I would have done, but I think it is worth saying why I had decided that. I wanted to give the hon. Member for Streatham longer—and I know she will want to say a few words at the end—because, even though I have ended up taking 10 minutes, I do believe that part of offering support is saying less and listening more.