Black Maternal Healthcare and Mortality Debate

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Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Black Maternal Healthcare and Mortality

Sarah Owen Excerpts
Monday 19th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Sarah Owen Portrait Sarah Owen (Luton North) (Lab) [V]
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Sir Gary. I thank the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, for asking me to respond on behalf of the Committee. Too often our Parliament is viewed as old, with blind spots on issues such as the health inequalities that affect black people, and black women in particular, so I am grateful to each of the nearly 200,000 people who signed the petition.

We have already heard that black women in the UK are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than other women, and up to twice as likely to experience a stillbirth than white women. This is not coincidence or fluke. We see in the available data and in people’s experiences how health services, designed disproportionately by non-black people, fail to meet the needs of black people. It is an institutional problem.

The Select Committee is currently looking into the safety of maternity services in England. The brilliant Tinuke and Clo from Five X More came to speak to us and share their experiences, and I thank them for leading this petition and for their campaigning work. Clo told the Committee that there needs to be greater investment to understand the huge disparity in health outcomes for black women. We currently do not collect data on near misses, morbidity, illnesses or poor outcomes for black women. I hope the Minister announces some changes to that.

Clo also told us that only once we uncover the experiences of black women going through maternity services and set targets to do better will we have better outcomes for all black women. The same sentiment was echoed when I met Mars Lord, a doula and birth activist working on the Black Mums Matter Too campaign, which is not only highlighting the shocking inequality facing black women and their children relating to maternal mortality, but taking action to save lives. Mars is working with Peppy Baby, which gives black birth parents free expert support, delivered remotely via an app.

In my own constituency, I have been doing my best to support my constituent Ernest Boateng. His wife, Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, sadly lost her life to covid-19. Mary was pregnant, and a nurse at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital in my constituency. Shortly after undergoing a C-section, Mary sadly died. I have been so moved by Ernest’s resolve and commitment over the last year to seek answers and to make sure that no other family faces such a tragic loss in the same way. I presented Ernest’s petition for greater protections for pregnant women during the pandemic to Parliament earlier this year. This is hugely important, especially as 55% of pregnant women hospitalised during the first months of the pandemic were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

I have written to the Minister multiple times to ask her to meet Ernest. He is the father of two children, and his one-year-old, little Mary, will never get to meet her mum. He is campaigning to make things better and safer for other expectant parents, but sadly every time I have asked, the Minister has responded that she is too busy to meet me and Ernest, so I use this opportunity to ask for even just 20 minutes of her time. I am sure that she will stand up and say the right things, and I know that her heart is in the right place. I am more than happy to assist, if she is willing to listen to the experiences of Ernest, so that no family has to face the devastating loss that his has.