Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit has written to the Secretary of State for Health, Victoria Atkins MP, to raise concerns about comments she made on the safety of maternity services on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme last weekend. 

During the programme, Victoria Atkins MP suggested that there were problems with maternity services only in some ‘darker corners’ of the NHS. Footage of the interview can be found on BBC iPlayer from 46 minutes. 

"Sadly, there are complex and systemic problems in maternity services in England that cost the lives of too many babies. These problems are well known, as the findings from countless reports and inquiries have shown us. 

“That the Secretary of State suggested these issues only exist 'in some darker corners' of the NHS is puzzling and worrying. That's why Sands and Tommy's have written to Victoria Atkins to urge her department to recognise the need for a more comprehensive national approach to improvement."

 Jess Reeves, Sands' Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns

Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit is focussed on achieving policy change that will save more babies’ lives during pregnancy and the neonatal period and on tackling inequalities in loss, so that everyone can benefit from the best possible outcomes.

Both Sands and Tommy’s, the leading pregnancy and baby loss charities, are concerned that these comments fail to recognise the systemic issues that need to be addressed if everyone is to benefit from the best possible outcomes.

While acute problems have been identified in specific services, the issues affecting rates of baby deaths are far wider than a few outliers. It is important the Secretary of State recognises the need for a more comprehensive national approach to improvement.

Last year, we published our Saving Babies’ Lives progress report, which made clear there are a range of systemic issues that need to be address. While there are many instances of good care being delivered, there is too much variation. Too often nationally agreed standards of care are not being followed which is contributing to avoidable deaths. 

There are national targets in place to reduce rates of stillbirth and neonatal death by 2025. Sadly, progress over the last few years has stalled and we are not on track to meet these ambitions. Much stronger action is required from government for these to be achieved.
There also needs to be stronger commitment from the Government to reducing inequalities in between ethnic groups or areas of deprivation. Multiple reports, including Sands’ Listening Project, have highlighted the impact of racism and discrimination that some individuals experience when engaging with health services.

In the letter, the Joint Policy Unit has requested a meeting with Victoria Atkins MP to discuss the key findings of our progress report and talk through the areas we think government action is needed to make progress.

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