Skip to main content

Maternal Health: Ethnic Minority Women

Volume 701: debated on Wednesday 22 September 2021

2. What steps the Government is taking to improve maternal health outcomes for ethnic minority women. (903588)

We remain committed to understanding and addressing ethnic disparities in maternal mortality rates. A new office for health improvement and disparities will be launched on 1 October, which will make addressing disparities in health outcomes a priority. In January, the then patient safety Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries), announced a £500,000 fund for a maternity leadership programme. NHS England recently published its equity and equality guidance, asking all local maternity systems to produce action plans to improve equity in maternal outcomes.

This month, I was lucky enough to meet Fazeela Hanif and her team at the Highfield Centre in Keighley, who recently launched a digital health hub that, among other things, creates a safe place for ethnic minority women to access maternal health and wellbeing provision. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating her and her team? Will she explain what the Government are doing to support places such as the Highfield Centre in Keighley to deliver such services?

I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the team at the Highfield Centre in Keighley on what sounds like an excellent approach, showing real leadership. The Government are committed to ensuring that women across the country are able to access the support that they need. The NHS long-term plan includes a commitment for a further 24,000 women to be able to access specialist perinatal mental health care by 2023-24, building on the additional 30,000 women accessing those services each year by 2020-21 under existing plans. Specialist care will also be available from preconception to 24 months after birth, which will provide an extra year of support.

After recent statistics showing that women in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are 32% less likely to take up help for post-natal depression, what discussions has the Minister undertaken with her counterparts in the devolved institutions, particularly the Northern Ireland Assembly, to ensure that women from ethnic minorities are offered the correct care if needed, to remove the stigma that they may feel they might encounter?

I agree that that is a very important area that should concern us all. We look forward to working with the hon. Member; I will arrange a meeting with the relevant Minister before Christmas.

The Five X More campaign has done incredible work highlighting the disparities in maternal outcomes for women from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Its single biggest ask is that the Government set targets to drive down those disparities. Can my hon. Friend indicate what progress is being made and whether the Government will set those targets, as the campaign calls for?

The Government are clear that there is absolutely no place for inequalities or racism in our society. If anyone experiences that in the NHS’s support or approach, that is obviously something that we are deeply concerned about. The Minister for Women and Equalities has been consulting with senior midwives and clinicians from ethnic minorities to discuss how we can improve the experience for all. Discussing targets and so on will be part of that ongoing process, and I am sure that they will look forward to meeting my right hon. Friend to discuss the matter further as we work towards improving the system for all.