This issue unfortunately affects many people, and I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, or the loss of a child. I applaud my colleagues who have recounted this painful 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 relative to levels in 2010.
Since 2010, the stillbirth rate has reduced 19.3 per cent, the neonatal mortality rate for babies born over the 24-week gestational age of viability has reduced by 36 per cent, and the proportion of babies born preterm has reduced from 8 per cent in 2017 to 7.7 per cent in 2021. Where progress to reduce adverse outcomes has been slower, the Government has introduced several targeted interventions, such as the Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle and the Brain Injury Reduction Programme.
Since 2016, the Government has provided more than £250,000 to SANDs, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, to work with other baby loss charities and royal colleges to produce and support the rollout of a National Bereavement Care Pathway to reduce the variation in the quality of bereavement care provided by the NHS.
I welcomed the publication of the Women's Health Strategy in July 2022 that made several commitments related to baby loss and maternity care. This included a pledge to introduce a pregnancy loss certificate in England as recommended by the interim update of the independent Pregnancy Loss Review. The Government has announced that a new Certificate of Pregnancy Loss will be available for bereaved parents to apply for from October this year.
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.
Furthermore, a Maternity Disparities Taskforce was established in February 2022 to explore the reasons for disparities in maternity care and address poor outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities and those living in deprived areas. This is supported by the Women's Health Strategy which was published in July 2022 which committed to make the NHS the best place in the world to give birth through personalised, individualised, and high-quality care.
The Government is focused on ensuring that bereaved parents feel able to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system and will put an emphasis on supporting them through their grief, recognising their loss, acknowledging their pain and ensuring they feel heard.