More support needed for bereaved parents

Hugh Gaffney paid tribute to his late mother Helen in his speech to the Commons
Hugh Gaffney paid tribute to his late mother Helen in his speech to the Commons

MP Hugh Gaffney has highlighted the lack of bereavement suites in many neonatal units along with the need for access to bereavement counsellors.

During a Commons debate on Baby Loss Awareness Week, Mr Gaffney also spoke about the work done by Gordon Encinias, the late Coatbridge South councillor, who did so much for local charity Bumblebee Babies ,which cares for families affected by stillbirth.

He also paid tribute to his mum, Helen, who died recently aged 86 and whose first job as a young nurse was to care for stillborn babies.

Mr Gaffney, who represents Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, said: “I shared with other MPs my own personal experience of facing the loss of a child.

“My son was 18-months-old when he took ill with meningitis and we were given 48 hours to see if he would survive. Twenty-eight years on he has survived and I once again thank NHS staff in Monklands Hospital on behalf of my family for all that they did for us.

“But other families are not so fortunate – 15 babies die every day in the United Kingdom either before, during or shortly after birth.

“That is why I am firmly of the view there is a need for bereavement suites in all neonatal units, with increased training and improved staffing levels.

“Four in 10 neonatal units have no access to a trained mental health worker and many still have no dedicated bereavement facilities. We need to do better.

“I also want to pay tribute to my late colleague Gordon Encinias, the Coatbridge South councillor, whose own family was sadly touched by infant deaths.

“But Gordon and his wife turned their heartache into becoming champions of the issue through North Lanarkshire-based charity Bumblebee Babies, which now supports parents across Scotland.

“But I also want to pay tribute to my own mother Helen Gaffney, who recently passed away aged 86. Her first job as a young nurse was looking after stillborn children. She looked after those angels as if they were her own. Rest in peace, Mum.”

The neonatal unit at University Hospital Wishaw has been fundraising to open a maternity bereavement suite, which will create a special haven for bereaved parents, and NHS Lanarkshire has now confirmed it will be ready by the end of the year.