‘This is above party politics’ – launching our JPU Saving Babies’ Lives report
The launch event at Portcullis House, Westminster, was co-hosted by Labour MP Olivia Blake and Conservative MP Cherilyn Mackrory, with Tommy’s Chief Executive Kath Abrahams and Sands Chief Executive Clea Harmer.
The Saving Babies’ Lives 2023 report is the first in a series planned by the JPU. It brings together data from different sources for the first time to show the extent of pregnancy and baby loss in the UK and provide an understanding of its causes, while making recommendations for change.
In their introduction, JPU Head Robert Wilson and report author Georgia Stevenson outlined current trends, highlighting a recent rise in stillbirths in England, ongoing disparities in death rates for Black and Asian women and birthing people and those from deprived areas of the UK, and a continuing crisis in midwife staffing.
As Rob reminded the audience of MPs and their representatives, Tommy’s and Sands staff and representatives from the healthcare sector and other charities:
“Behind every piece of data are individual stories of heartbreak that mustn’t be forgotten.”
Following the introduction, Tommy’s midwife and founder of Black Baby Loss Awareness Week Alicia Burnett and Joint Head of the Saving Babies' Lives team at Sands Charlotte Bevan bravely spoke about their personal stories of baby loss. Alicia described her experiences of maternity care and her reasons for creating BBLAW. Charlotte called for lessons to be learned after every loss to improve care, and for the voices of parents to be at the heart.
“Parents sometimes have to fight for years to find the truth,” she said. “In the meantime, other lives are at risk. Not listening to parents is a missed opportunity to improve care and save lives. Really listening to women takes time, skills and training, especially when families come from marginalised communities. If we get it wrong for healthcare professionals – if they don’t get the right training – we get it wrong for parents too."
Our panel of MPs – Cherilyn, Olivia, Liberal Democrat Helen Morgan and Labour’s Bell Ribeiro-Addy all spoke about their own experiences, and answered questions from Kath Abrahams on what actions they believe should be taken to reduce rates of baby loss. Bell focused on the need for much better data collection in maternity care to start addressing inequities. She also explained that while Tommy’s and Sands provide excellent support for parents, “the NHS should work for all of us – we shouldn’t have to be dependent on charities.”
Cherilyn noted: “This is above party politics. This is something that everybody in this place wants to get right. It’s about how we get there and how we use resources best to do it.”
Helen highlighted staffing shortages, with a lack of perinatal pathologists is a particular cause for concern: “We don’t get answers. How can you possibly try and recover when you have no idea why your baby died?” she said.
“We know where the issues are now,” said Olivia, “we just need actions to tackle them.”
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health and Women's Health Strategy Maria Caulfield thanked Tommy’s and Sands for our work and spoke about what the Government is doing to address these urgent issues, including the forthcoming publication of a Pregnancy Loss Review. “Women shouldn’t have to wait for 2 or 3 miscarriages before getting support. We will work with Sands and Tommy’s on this,” she said.
Find out more about the JPU Saving Babies’ Lives report
On Sunday The Observer covered the report launch in an exclusive feature, followed by broadcast mentions on national radio. Tommy’s CEO Kath Abrahams was interviewed by Kay Burley on the Sky News breakfast show.
Thank you to everyone who attended our report launch – there is a long way to go to make the UK the safest place in the world to have a baby. We all want safer, more personalised, more equitable care so fewer people will experience the heartbreak of loss. This is only possible with political will, common purpose and collaboration. Together we can save more babies’ lives.