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Maternity Care

Volume 612: debated on Tuesday 5 July 2016

Since 2010, we have invested £37 million in improving the physical environment of over 140 maternity units and purchasing equipment to improve safety. We now have 2,103 more midwives in the NHS and 6,400 more in training than in 2010.

Expectant parents in Colchester are among the first in the UK to have hypnobirthing courses—I recently attended one myself. What consideration has the Secretary of State given to the effectiveness of hypnobirthing in improving maternity safety?

A variety of pioneering techniques, which could make a huge difference to women’s experience of birth, are emerging. I am delighted that we are seeing lots of experimentation and innovation. I would particularly like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s trust, which is in special measures and has been through a very difficult period. The fact that it is still managing to do this kind of innovation is wholly to be commended.

Has the Secretary of State seen the Autism Commission report on barriers to healthcare for people with autism? In maternity care and all other care there are very severe barriers that, with the right will and the right action, we can overcome. Will he read the report and talk to me about it?

I am more than happy to do so. In fact, we have a copy of the report right here, which my Minister of State has handily given to me. When I was shadow Minister for disabled people, I had a lot of contact with parents of autistic children and with people on the autistic spectrum themselves. The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point.

The maternity unit at North Devon district hospital in Barnstaple in my constituency is one of the services being reviewed under the current Success Regime. Can the Secretary of State reassure me and my constituents that maternity care, and the safety thereof in what is a geographically huge region, will be the first priority under this review?

I can absolutely assure my hon. Friend on that. I know there are very big national and global events happening right now, but I want to tell the House that over the next month one of my big priorities will be to do something to improve our record on maternity safety. We have made huge progress in reducing stillbirth rates and so on, but maternity safety is still not as good as it should be and certainly not as good as in other countries in western Europe. This is an absolute priority and I hope to be able to inform the House more on this before recess.

As the chair of the all-party group on infant feeding and inequalities, I welcome the new guidance issued by Public Health England, in conjunction with UNICEF Baby Friendly, on the commissioning of infant feeding services. I welcome in particular the recognition of raising infant feeding at the antenatal stage. Will the Secretary of State explain what resources the Department of Health is putting in to promote the guidance and increase breastfeeding at local levels?

We already commit huge resources to that, but we can do more. As I just said, we hope to announce something to the House before the break.