Policy Ask – Baby Loss Awareness Week

Policy Asks

Latest news: campaigning success on mental health support for bereaved mothers

 

We’re delighted that NHS England has announced more mental health support for bereaved mothers. In 2019 we called for the Government to take action to ensure that all parents who experience pregnancy or baby loss and need specialist psychological support can access it, at a time and place that is right for them, free of charge, wherever they live.

 

MPs came together in Parliament to debate this. The Minister confirmed that some of the £2.3 billion investment in mental health laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan would be directed towards mothers who have experienced pregnancy or baby loss. She also committed to asking if planned maternity outreach clinics (responsible for psychological therapy for women experiencing mental health difficulties arising from and directly related to the maternity experience), could consider extending the maternity experience to those who have lost a child in pregnancy, during labour and childbirth, or in the neonatal period.

 

In April 2021 it has been confirmed that this is the case, with 26 new hubs bringing together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapy under one roof including for those bereaved by the death of a baby.

Looking back at the Out of Sight, Out of Mind Report

For Baby Loss Awareness Week 2019 we called on all Governments across the UK to take action to ensure that all parents who experience pregnancy or baby loss and need specialist psychological support can access it, at a time and place that is right for them, free of charge, wherever they live.

 

Thousands of parents experience pregnancy or baby loss every year, many will go on to experience psychiatric illness that requires specialist support, triggered by intense grief and the trauma of their experience.

 

Our research showed that too often this support is unavailable, inaccessible or inappropriate. Bereaved parents are falling through the gaps between policy and funding, regularly overlooked altogether.

Baby Loss Awareness Week 2020

Nearly 7,000 people took our #BLAW2020 actions about partners being excluded from pregnancy, maternity and neonatal services due to COVID-19, despite updated NHS guidance.

 

On Thursday 5th November MPs came together, across party lines, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on those experiencing pregnancy and baby loss during the pandemic, and what needs to be done to avoid the unintended negative consequences of restrictions to services during the second wave.

 

We are very grateful to all the MPs who spoke so openly and honestly about their own experiences – showing us that there are MPs who truly understand how it feels when a pregnancy or baby is lost, and that they will advocate for vital action from Government, even when it is personally challenging.

 

The debate came at a crucial time in this pandemic, as many parts of the UK are subject to stricter lockdowns, and pregnant women, those who have lost a baby and their families, face further restrictions to support and services. This also comes as we begin to understand the full and devastating impact of the first lockdown on bereaved families.

 

MPs highlighted the number one issue that pregnant women, bereaved parents and professionals have raised with us during the pandemic – lack of access for partners to maternity and neonatal services and pregnancy appointments and scans. The Government can now be left in no doubt that, it is essential that pregnant women can be accompanied to appointments and scans, and that hospitals that are not allowing this to happen must be better supported so that they can. The adverse impact on those experiencing pregnancy and baby loss, or who are pregnant following a previous loss, was made abundantly clear.

 

We were disappointed with the Minister’s response during the debate. However, she has since confirmed that the Government expects hospitals to use the NHS: “guidance on reintroducing access for partners in English maternity services and consider as a priority how access for partners can be reintroduced as soon as possible whilst maintaining the safety of all service users, staff and visitors”.

 

We remain concerned that this means some hospitals are not doing enough to allow partners access. However, thanks to the nearly 5,000 of you who took our action asking your MP, MSPs, AMs or MLAs to take this up with local services, we now have some good information on where this is a problem. We will share this with the Government to help them target the hospitals that need more support to allow partners to accompany pregnant women, and those experiencing the loss of a baby, in to services.

You can watch the debate on Parliament TV here and read the full transcript here.