Our national ambition is to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths, and serious birth-related brain injuries by 2015. We are working with our partners to implement the maternity safety strategy, and new data shows that the stillbirth rate in 2017 was the lowest since records began in 1927.
Our three children were all born in periods of extremely hot weather. I ask the House to think of the families of Banbury who have to travel for up to an hour and a half or even two hours, if they are lucky enough to have their own car, to Oxford to give birth in a full obstetric unit. May I encourage the Minister, in her drive to ensure that maternity care is safe, kind and close to home, to ask the new Secretary of State to visit us in Banbury soon so that he can assess the situation for himself?
I completely understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. She has been an incredibly strong advocate and campaigner on this very issue. As she knows, no permanent changes will be made until the work is carried out by the independent review panel, which is looking at attempts to recruit obstetric staff for her local services. I thank her very much for the offer of a visit; I am sure the Secretary of State will look at it very closely.
Dr Neal Russell volunteered to help in the fight against Ebola. Today he has returned his Ebola medal in protest at the healthcare hostile environment for migrants caused by a new charging regime, which has led to vulnerable pregnant women here in the UK being too afraid to get maternity healthcare. Will the Minister suspend her Department’s charging regime, pending the completion of a thorough and independent public health assessment?
That is incredibly sad news. We hate to hear of anybody who has done such incredible service in the pursuit of great healthcare around the world taking such drastic steps. We have an incredibly strong departmental ambition for NHS maternity to provide the safest, highest quality care in the world. That is something we will continue to aspire towards.
The maternity unit at Harrogate Hospital is award winning due to the skills and compassion of its fantastic team. What action is my hon. Friend taking to encourage more people into maternity care and midwifery careers?
The Department’s maternity safety ambition plans are to train more than 3,000 extra midwives over the next four years. As part of that, we will be working with our partners to develop new training routes to become registered midwives so that, along with other roles in the NHS, maternity and midwifery can attract the best and retain the most talented staff.
According to the Royal College of Midwives, the national shortage of midwives is running at nearly 4,000 and is particularly acute in areas like mine in east London, with its very high property prices and rising birth rates. How does the Minister intend to address that?
There are in fact 2,300 more midwives in the NHS than there were in 2010, but the hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. We want to continue to attract the best people into midwifery, which is why we are providing an extra £500,000 to the NHS to cover the clinical placement costs for 650 additional students in 2019-20.