TIM LOUGHTON: Simple changes needed to investigate stillbirths

Tim Loughton
Tim Loughton

Last week was National Baby Loss Awareness week and we marked the occasion in Parliament with a very well informed debate, and a number of events including some very moving testimonies from women who have lost children through stillbirth or in the early weeks after being born.

Stillbirth and infant mortality rates in the UK are higher than in most other European countries.

Whilst figures have been improving slowly just over 3,000 babies die in the first 28 days of life and a further 3,200 are stillborn.

The Government have a target of reducing these levels by 20 per cent by 2020 and a range of initiatives have been put in place.

One pilot launched last week was a new ‘national bereavement care pathway’ in 11 sites around England.

Too often parents who have just gone through the trauma of losing a child are treated insensitively and left in a maternity ward alongside lots of mums with healthy crying babies for example.

Hopefully the measures being trialled in these pilots will spread best practice across all hospitals.

Another related issue is the high number of late-term stillbirths where there are question marks over exactly what went wrong. Whilst there would be a full investigation for a child born safely but who then does not survive the coroner has no power to investigate questionable stillbirths.

This has raised a lot of concerns that proper lessons have not been learnt and the full circumstances not properly looked at.

Hence one of the measures in my Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Bill private member’s bill which comes before the Commons in February, is to give powers to coroners to investigate stillbirths. This is something supported by many parents, children’s charities and coroners including our own West Sussex coroner Penny Schofield.

I have also included measures to extend registration of stillborn children to under the current 24-week threshold following the case of a constituent which I first raised in Parliament a couple of years ago.

Hopefully these simple changes to the law will attract widespread support across the Commons, but then things in Parliament are rarely that straightforward!

I have added a couple of podcasts to my website dealing with the long-running issue of ‘WASPI women’ born in the 1950s who have suffered disproportionately from pension changes, as well as some very encouraging announcements from the Government on animal welfare – you can find them at www.timloughton.com

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at loughtont@parliament.uk