Scot Lib Dems call for parliament to scrutinise government handling of baby deaths

14 May 2024
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today expressed frustration at the Scottish Government's refusal to call for parliamentary time to be set aside to consider a report into a spike in the number of deaths of children within the first 28 days of life.

Following two spikes in the neonatal mortality rate in Scotland in September 2021 and March 2022, Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) appointed retired consultant neonatologist Dr Helen Mactier to chair an expert group investigating the possible causes behind the two unexplained spikes. Sarah Stock, a professor in maternal and foetal health at Edinburgh University, told the Herald that it was “entirely plausible” that short-staffing and pandemic pressures had played a part in the spike in deaths.

The Scottish Government indicated that this report would be published by the end of 2023. However once it became apparent that this deadline would be missed, Mr Cole-Hamilton wrote to the Scottish Government to ask for parliamentary scrutiny of this process.

In response, minister for public health and women’s health Jenni Minto said:

“At this stage we do not plan to make a statement to Parliament on the delay. However, I would be happy to consider a debate once the reports are published. I believe it would be more productive for Parliament to debate the contents of the reports themselves”

Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s report on neonatal mortality was eventually published on 27th Feb 2024 and indicated that a more comprehensive reviews of neonatal deaths was needed.

However in response to a second letter from Mr Cole-Hamilton asking when this debate would take place, Jenni Minto said:

"I have no plans to call a debate at this time."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

“There can be few more pressing priorities for a government than uncovering why the death rate among new-born 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.

“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.”

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