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Perinatal Mortality

Volume 979: debated on Thursday 21 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if his Department would be prepared to support a national policy of positive discrimination in favour of those pregnant women who are most at risk, such as that pioneered by Dr. Marsh in Stockton-on-Tees.(2) if his Department will undertake a study of the work carried out by Dr. Marsh and his colleagues in Stockton-on-Tees, where by discriminating in favour of those pregnant women most at risk, they have reduced their perinatal mortality rates to under half the national average; and if he will make a statement.

It is already the Department's recommended policy for health authorities to practice "positive discrimination" by concentrating extra resources on localities where social and environmental conditions place mothers and their children at particular risk. The precise regime of antenatal care to be followed by each pregnant woman must, however, be a matter for the professional judgment of the doctor and midwife undertaking her care. The Department and the Cleveland area health authority are well informed about the interesting and valuable work of Dr. Marsh and his colleagues at the Norton medical centre, which is also well known—through articles in the medical press—to the profession generally.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make additional funds available for the Health Education Council's campaign to encourage women to attend early and regularly at antenatal clinics; and what funds he has already made available for this purpose.

No final decisions have been taken yet on the scale of overall funding for the Health Education Council for 1980–81, but I understand that the council is spending £660,000 of its 1979–80 budget on its "Mother & Baby "campaign and that some £350,000 has been earmarked in the council's provisional 1980–81 estimates for a follow-up campaign.