Last Thursday afternoon, I heard what was the most heartbreaking debate in all my 24 years as an MP.
It was Baby Loss week and colleagues in the All-Party Group on Baby Loss had secured a debate to raise awareness and to call for changes in policy to prevent stillbirth and neonatal death and to ensure more compassionate treatment for bereaved parents.
Tears were shed as MPs from different parties spoke of their personal experience of the devastating impact on their lives of losing a loved and longed-for son or daughter.
Despite improvements, our country still does worse than most other developed countries in reducing the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths.
And in nearly two thirds of stillbirths, the cause of death is unknown.
It was clear, listening to the speeches, that we need seek improvements simultaneously on a number of fronts. The answer lies partly in better screening for conditions like Strep B, partly in better public health so that expectant mothers understand how their own lifestyle can affect their baby’s chances.
NHS staff are human. Sometimes mistakes are made. Better training is important but so is a culture within the NHS that does not focus on blame but faces up to human error and learns from it.
Other steps seem so simple, such obvious good practice, yet are not taken everywhere: allowing parents time with their baby after death; bereavement suites instead of grieving mothers having to stay on the maternity ward; the right for parents to have the ashes from their baby’s cremation.
I would encourage readers to look at the Hansard report of the debate, available on parliament.uk or watch it on parliament.tv . It took great courage for my colleagues to speak in public about their own anguish.
One Labour MP said that this was the first time that she had ever spoken in public about her loss. We now need to work together to secure the changes to make sure that fewer parents suffer this way in future.