Having a sick or premature baby can take an emotional and physical toll on any parent, and I recognise that well-organised, effective and responsive neonatal care can make a vital difference.
I’m pleased, therefore, that, over the last two years, the Government has provided over £37 million in capital funding to improve facilities in maternity and neonatal care units across the country. This included projects to create parent accommodation with bedrooms, kitchen and sitting areas and en-suite bathrooms to provide a comfortable environment for parents and their families.
It is also working hard to make the NHS one of the safest places in the world to give birth. In 2015, a national ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries occurring during or soon after birth by 2030 was announced. To support this, a funding package of £2.24 million has been available to enable trusts to buy monitoring and training equipment to improve safety in maternity and neonatal units. The Department of Health and Social Care is also investing over £1 million in training programmes to make sure staff have the skills and confidence they need to deliver world-leading safe care.
A broader £365 million has also been committed, between 2015/16 and 2020/21, to improve specialist perinatal mental health services. In 2016 the independent National Maternity Review set out several recommendations designed to make maternity care safer and give women greater control and choice, and the Government’s Maternity Transformation Programme Board has been established to drive forward this vision for maternity services.
There is, though, as you note, more to do, and I understand Ministers will continue to work closely with Bliss and others to improve neonatal services, so that all premature and sick babies receive the best possible care.