Baby Loss Awareness Week debate by MP's

Published on: 10/10/2019

On Tuesday 8th October 2019, a day before the start of baby loss awareness week, MP’s met at the House Of Commons for a general debate around baby loss and the current support services available to bereaved parents. Leading the debate was Caroline Dinenage MP, who is Minister of State for the Department of Health & Social Care. Caroline begins by thanking the many members of parliament who have been brave enough to share their personal and painful accounts of baby loss.

“It is incredibly heartening to see how this has become a big annual event”

She continues to explain how important it is that MP’s use their profiles and the unique platform of parliament to their advantage, to raise awareness and challenge the idea that baby loss is an uncomfortable topic to talk about. Since 2015 more MP’s have begun to start conversations around this important issue.

Recognising Support Services:

This year the focus is on the need for specialist psychological support that bereaved parents need, both during the grieving process and when adjusting to life after loss. This type of support should be a vital area of bereavement care but unfortunately many parents do not receive follow up care once they have been discharged from their midwife or hospital.

A second MP stands to discuss  the need for all Maternity Units to include Specialist Bereavement Suites and explains how difficult it can be to secure funding for these facilities, giving the example of a recently opened Bereavement Suite at Scunthorpe Hospital. It has taken years to complete the £175,000 project but was finally completed in the summer of 2019. A Bereavement Suite is a separate section of the Maternity Ward, where a bereaved family is able to care and make memories with their baby, in private and with dignity.

“They are a really important part of the healing process and it shouldn’t be the case that this isn’t the norm for all maternity suites”

To read more about the brand new Bereavement Suite and how the facilities were funded please click here 

The review of the Registration of Stillbirths:

For some time Tim Loughton MP has requested a review for the law to be changed, to enable registration of stillbirth before 24 weeks of pregnancy. In March 2018 the Department of Health & Social Care established the Pregnancy Loss Review, but Tim Loughton reminded the house that his review panel has not met for over a year.

They have yet to be updated on any progress of when the legislation will be laid to coroners for the first time. Caroline Dinenage responded saying officials are currently analysing all the responses and will revert on the notion as soon as possible, with an estimate of by the end of the year.

What has been achieved?

Since 2015 there have been many improvements made to the quality of Maternal and Bereavement Care, including strategies implemented by the NHS, which have improved patient safety and has reduced stillbirth rates in maternity and neonatal services.

In 2016/2017, the Department of Health launched a range of initiatives that are being delivered to the NHS under the supervision of the Maternity Transformation Programme, which includes better monitoring of fetal growth and more monitoring during labour.

This summer the Office for National Statistics  reported that stillbirth rates in England have decreased, from 5.1 deaths per thousand to 4 deaths per thousand, from 2010 to 2018. Although this does not reflect baby loss due to miscarriage, late miscarriage, or neonatal deaths.

In regards to stillbirth, there has been a 21% reduction , which is 2 years ahead of the 2020 NHS long term ambition plan.

There is still work to be done:

The government’s ambition is to halve the rates of stillbirth and neonatal deaths by 2025. This ambition was set out in November 2015, when the UK ranked high in a list of wealthy countries experiencing baby loss, where deaths could have been prevented with better clinical care. There were 44 recommendations for improving the safety and quality of maternity services.

“An estimated 600 stillbirths annually could still be prevented if all maternity units adopted best national practice”

A revised version of the Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle has just been launched to make sure lessons are learned from these tragic deaths.

Caroline Dinenage pays tribute to all midwives, obstetricians, and all members of the maternity and neonatal services for embracing the maternity safety ambition, and their incredible hard work for achieving this mile stone of reducing stillbirth 2 years ahead of target. However she declares there is no room for complacency as their is so much more work to do.

Final pledges:

As the debate comes to an end, Nadine Dorries MP and Minister for Mental Health and Patient Safety, offers a commitment to ensure that some of the £2.3 Billion allocated for Perinatal Mental Health will provide support for those affected by the loss of a baby.

She also asks for an extension of Maternity Outreach Clinics to include mental health support for bereaved parents, not forgetting those families who live in rural areas who may struggle with logistics to visit a counsellor. We need to embrace the technology that is available to us and make sure no parent is forgotten.  Her final word is to focus on Group B Strep support which would drastically prevent infant mortality.

For more information on events happening over Baby Loss Awareness Week please visit the official page, where you can find ways to support and get involved. Including the annual Wave of Light, where you can light a candle in memory of an angel baby at 7 pm on 15th October 2019.