Demand for ministers to face scrutiny over rise in number of baby deaths

Scottish Liberal Democrats say time should be scheduled at Holyrood to debate the issue.

Demand for ministers to face scrutiny over rise in number of baby deaths STV News

Ministers are facing calls for “proper scrutiny” into a rise in baby deaths in Scotland – with Liberal Democrats demanding a report into the issue be debated at Holyrood.

The Scottish Government commissioned Healthcare Improvement Scotland to carry out a review after there was a higher than expected number of deaths involving newborns in both March 2022 and September 2021.

Jenni Minto, the minister for public health and women’s health, insisted the Scottish Government had “accepted the findings of the report and recommendations” and was now “working on the next steps”.

But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton insisted the government should also schedule time for the issue to be debated in Holyrood.

He spoke out after the Healthcare Improvement Scotland review found there were 135 neonatal deaths – those which occur within 28 days of birth – in Scotland between April 2021 and March 31, 2022.

When compared to the previous four years, there were an estimated 30 additional deaths over the course of the year.

However, the review did not find evidence of systemic failures of maternity or neonatal care or “unusual factors” that would explain the increase.

Minto, in a letter to Cole-Hamilton, accepted the increase in mortality was “concerning”.

She said: “The report noted at the outset that there was no evidence of systemic failures in maternity or neonatal care, or any unusual factors or a cluster of any one factor to explain the increase in neonatal deaths in this period.

“Whilst this provides some reassurance, the increase in mortality remains concerning and the Scottish Government remains committed to improvement in maternity and neonatal safety across Scotland.”

But she said there were “no plans” for the issue to be debated at Holyrood with the minister instead saying MSPs would be informed via letter of the work the Government is doing.

However, Cole-Hamilton said: “If there is time for Parliament to hold a series of debates on the Scottish Government’s ridiculous independence papers, there is time for proper scrutiny of important public health matters like this.”

The Liberal Democrat MSP stated: “There can be few more pressing priorities for a government than uncovering why the death rate among newborn babies has spiked.

“That’s why I wrote to the public health minister to press for these reports to be published after they were delayed last year.

“Alongside taking forward the recommendations from the healthcare improvement Scotland report, I would urge the Scottish Government to schedule time for Parliament to discuss this report.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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