This issue unfortunately affects many people, and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, or the loss of child. I applaud my colleagues who have recounted this difficult experience in their lives in Parliament to raise awareness of baby loss and inspire changes in policy.
The UK is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, however I know that the Government recognises that there is still more to be done. The Department of Health and Social Care has set out a range of measures to deliver its ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after labour, and maternal deaths by 2025. It is encouraging that good progress has been made on achieving these ambitions. Since 2010, there has been a reduction of 25 per cent in stillbirth rates and a 29 per cent reduction in neonatal mortality rates for babies born after 24 weeks gestation. Of course, there is still work to be done and I welcome the Government’s keen focus on achieving its important ambitions.
I thank the APPG on Baby Loss and charities such as Sands for their work to raise awareness in Parliament about the impact of pregnancy or baby loss on thousands of parents every year.
I would like to join the APPG on Baby Loss and would value the opportunity to meet with Sands to understand how I can get involved, as well as receiving information about how I can support bereaved parents in my constituency.
Furthermore, I firmly agree that all parents who experience pregnancy and baby loss and would like specialist psychological support should be able to access it. It is welcome, therefore, that the Government is committed to expanding and transforming mental health services in England so that people, including those affected by the loss of a baby, get the help and support they need. I know that the Government wants to see a further 24,000 women able to access specialist perinatal mental healthcare by 2023, which builds on the additional 30,000 women who can access such services this year. The NHS Long Term Plan seeks to increase mental health support funding by £2.3 billion per year by 2023/24. As part of this I know that care provided by specialist perinatal mental health services will be available from preconception to 24 months after birth.
I warmly welcome the announcement of an additional £95 million of recurrent funding for maternity services, which is supporting the recruitment of 1,200 midwives and 100 consultant obstetricians.
NHS England has published an equity and equality strategy, supported by a £6.8 million investment, to address the causes of inequalities in health outcomes, experience and access. It provides guidance for local maternity systems and focuses on black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, who currently experience poor maternal health outcomes. This is a vital step towards tackling such an important issue and I am encouraged by the Government’s focus on it. Indeed, at the recent Parliamentary debate on this topic, the Minister for Primary Care and Patient Safety confirmed that this is a priority area for her.
Finally, I share the concerns raised about the high mortality rates for babies of Asian and Asian British ethnicity. Recent research suggests that stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates are both around 60 per cent higher than for babies of White ethnicity. I know that the Government is committed to tackling these inequalities and welcome investment in doing so. The body Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the United Kingdom (MBRRACE-UK) conduct surveillance of all late losses, stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and produce Confidential Enquires to provide valuable learning and inform service improvement. I note that the current MBRRACE-UK is reviewing the quality of care provision provided for mothers and babies of Black and Black British ethnicity to identify areas where care could be improved, and this focus on improving inequalities is welcome. I hope to see this work expanded in future.