Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about care and support for bereaved parents and Thursday’s Westminster Hall debate on baby loss.
Sadly, this is a subject which is very close to my heart. The loss of a baby or pregnancy is a devastating experience and I know that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions have exacerbated what is already an incredibly difficult time. It is essential, particularly now, that families receive the best care and support.
I have worked with some of the charities from the Baby Loss Awareness Alliance and pay tribute to all their hard work on pressing the Government to improve bereavement care, as well as the support they provide to families and healthcare professionals.
As you may be aware, changes in visiting rules due to COVID-19 have left some women going through incredibly difficult times without the support they may have otherwise had. I know that one of the main issues raised by parents is the exclusion of partners from appointments and scans, which has left some women receiving bad news or having to make difficult decisions alone.
NHS England recently published guidance with the aim of reintroducing birth partners and visitors in birth settings. The guidance emphasises that NHS trusts should tailor their policies to their local situation and be innovative in the way visiting is reintroduced.
Nevertheless, I am aware of reports that many NHS trusts are still not allowing birth partners to attend pregnancy, maternity and neonatal services. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised this issue at Prime Minister’s Questions in September.
Reintroducing visits is challenging during a pandemic and the priority must be the safety of all service users. However, pregnancy is a stressful time for women and their families, and it is particularly difficult for women who have previously experienced baby loss.
To mark this year’s Baby Loss Awareness Week I tabled a number of written parliamentary questions around mental health support for parents, asking the Government what progress it has made in the last year.
I will continue to press these issues where I can, although sadly I am not able to take part in Thursday’s debate as I am shielding and we cannot participate in the session remotely. As an aside, I am also pushing for this to be changed so that MPs can join debates virtually, as we did at the start of the last lockdown.
I have, however, written to the chief executive of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust – as requested by some of the constituents who contacted me – to about the measures they have in place to ensure that both women and their partners can attend pregnancy, maternity and neonatal services, especially when they have previously experienced a loss.