Antoinette Sandbach MP opens 7th child bereavement conference
In a stark keynote speech today to open the 7th Annual Neonatal Palliative Care and End of Life Care Conference, Antoinette Sandbach, the respected Conservative MP for Eddisbury, Cheshire revealed that when her baby son died she received no bereavement support from the hospital that had treated him and that without help from the Third Sector, she doubts she would still be here.
Ms Sandbach said through her tears that losing her five-day-old son Sam to SIDS in 2009 had left her "broken" and it was only the counselling support she received from bereavement charities that gradually gave her the strength to get up in the morning. Two years later, she was elected a member of the North Wales regional Assembly where she held the post of Shadow Rural Affairs Minister. In 2015, she became MP for Eddisbury.
Her story was echoed by other speakers, including Fieldfisher's Caron Heyes who discussed a family she had advised who also received no help through the NHS and were left torn apart by the loss of a young child.
Caron said bereavement support made the difference for most of her clients between finding a way through their loss and remembering their child, with a measure of joy, or carrying it as an unbearable burden for the rest of their lives.
In her speech, Ms Sandbach said that although she was treated with kindness following her son's death, the professional care she received was haphazard.
"There is some good practice in hospitals but primary care in the community tends to be really bad and is largely expected to be fulfilled by the 'third sector' (charities). This is fine, but we have to give them the right support."
This lack of support encouraged her to set up the All Parliamentary group on baby loss to lobby for better care for parents who have a lost a baby – "and also grandparents and siblings". Part of the work of the APPG has been to fund bereavement care pathways in hospitals and to encourage better parental rights, such as paid parental leave following the death of a baby.
Another main focus of the APPG's work is still to reduce the stigma around baby death. She said:
"There are still some communities where losing a child is such a taboo, parents don't even attend their own baby's funeral and if they do, there is no one else there from their community to support them," she said. Every year in the UK, there are an estimated 200,000 miscarriages, 3,500 stillbirths and 2,000 neonatal deaths. The main reasons behind the figures include obesity in pregnancy, smoking and social deprivation connected to dietary issues and access to care. Ms Sandbach also said that the UK lies 114th out of 164 countries in its number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths and that this failure to tackle stillbirth rates is "unacceptable". "There has to be a change in mentality from GPs to midwives to consultants to get out to the public health message about these risks,"
The APPG will also focus this year on mental health care for parents.
Ms Sandbach added that hundreds of thousands of people suffer the death of a baby each year but the tragedy is rarely discussed in the public domain.
"I spoke at the Baby Loss Awareness Week at the BBC last year. I met 10 new people that day and four of them had lost a baby."
About Child Bereavement UK
Child Bereavement UK provide confidential support, information and guidance to families and professionals throughout the UK. Their professionally trained bereavement support workers are available to take calls 9am – 5pm Monday-Friday.
About the 7th child bereavement conference
The conference was organised by Child Bereavement UK and hosted by Fieldfisher. Other charities present include:
- Child Bereavement UK https://childbereavementuk.org/
- Sands https://www.sands.org.uk/
- Simba, http://www.simbacharity.org.uk/
- Together for Short Lives https://www.togetherforshortlives.org.uk/
- Bliss https://www.bliss.org.uk/
- CHAS https://www.chas.org.uk/
- New Life for Children with Disability http://newlifecharity.co.uk/
Caron Heyes, who coordinated the event, said Fieldfisher was proud to support Child Bereavement UK and all the charities involved in the event.
By Caron Heyes.
Caron is a solicitor in our Clinical Negligence team in London. She has pursued clinical negligence claims on behalf of patients across a broad spectrum of claim types, including obstetrics and gynaecology, neonatology, oncology, cardiology, Emergency, fertility and patient rights. Caron has a particular expertise in complex neonatal, obstetric, surgical mismanagement and accident claims and is experienced in providing advice and representation at inquests.
The Legal 500, and Chambers, UK, a Client's Guide to the Legal Profession, have repeatedly recognised Caron's expertise as a leader in the field of Clinical negligence, and recommended her as an "experienced, adept and supportive lawyer" and "a star associate".