Black Maternal Healthcare and Mortality Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Black Maternal Healthcare and Mortality

Florence Eshalomi Excerpts
Monday 19th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I thank the campaigners for bringing this really important issue to Parliament and for raising awareness on behalf of all women. Over 1,186 Vauxhall constituents signed the petition that has led to this important debate.

As the mother of two young children born just over the road from Parliament, at St Thomas’ Hospital, I know that giving birth should be one of the most natural and exciting experiences that any mother can have. I think back to my first pregnancy—the fear, excitement and mixture of emotions. Like many women from a black or minority ethnic community, I was not aware that I suffered from a disease called fibroids until I had my first maternal scan. That brought additional fear and anxiety around my childbirth, but for far too many women, pregnancy and childbirth can be complicated and dangerous. When I got pregnant, I also realised that I was a sickle cell carrier.

We have known for some time that maternal and perinatal mortality rates are significantly higher for women of black, Asian and mixed heritage and their babies. That is why we have to do everything we can to ensure that pregnancy and childbirth is as safe as it can be for all women in this country. We have the data. We know that the death rate in childbirth for black women is five times that for white women. In 2021, that cannot be acceptable.

To tackle the problem, we must first acknowledge the structural and institutional racism that exists in our healthcare system. We know that black and minority ethnic women are sometimes not listened to during the course of their care, and this can be subject to unconscious bias and microaggression. As a result, their symptoms are dismissed as normal during pregnancy, whereas they should be investigated a lot further.

The NHS is aware of the disparity, but it has no target to end it. I hope that by raising awareness of this issue, we will help to kickstart a national debate that will lead to the Government taking real action to address it. My colleagues have already asked the Minister to respond by looking at those key targets. We need to work with the NHS to implement the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ recommendations, which are clear. They are about reducing racial disparities in black and minority ethnic maternal health outcomes, and specifically about introducing those targets, so that we can measure those protections.