Campaign to prevent avoidable deaths of infants has secured debate in Parliament this week

This week, local MP Sarah Newton is leading a debate in Parliament, calling on the Government to enable every, new parent to receive high quality training so that they are equipped to identify serious illness in their child and take appropriate action. 

Child and adolescent health in the UK has improved dramatically over the past 30 years. Despite this in 2017 just under 3,000 babies died before their first birthday and 1,707 children and young people died between the ages of one and nineteen. 

Recent estimates from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, suggest that 21% of child deaths involved ‘modifiable factors’ – something could possibly have been done to prevent death. 

They conclude that giving children and families the tools they need is critical. We should prioritise prevention and equip them with the knowledge and skill that enable them to better protect their own. 

Sarah Newton MP has been working with Cornwall Resus which was established in 2012 by two paediatric nurses to inform parents and carers of the necessary skills needed to empower them to recognise when their baby or child is unwell and to respond appropriately.  

They run parents’ courses in community centres around Cornwall that last 2-2.5 hours, including practical training on choking and resuscitation using life like dummies and allowing lots of time for questions and discussion at the end. It costs £30.00 per person. They have done 2 courses per month for the last 5 years with between 8-14 people per session. They have received great feedback from parents and carers who say they feel more confident parents as a result of the sessions. 

Anna Laity posted on Cornwall Resus Facebook page: “Your excellent training came to good use this weekend when our two year old had a febrile convulsion, one of the scariest things I’ve ever witnessed. Due to your training I remembered to time it, put him in the recovery position and what to say when I was on the phone to 999.” 

Sarah Newton MP said: “Every parent and carer should have the opportunity to access similar training, and while £30 is a modest investment, it will be a barrier for some parents. I want the government to enable every parent or carer to have access to high quality evidence-based training, delivered by appropriate providers.  

This builds on my work with the UK Sepsis Trust and I believe that this may help to reduce morbidity, mortality and very importantly, family distress, as well as helping to tackle the associated cost of treatment, hospital admissions and possible litigation.” 

Dr Simon Robertson, Consultant Paediatrician at the RCHT:  

“I have been a consultant general paediatrician for the last 12 years. I see children referred into hospital from their GPs, and the emergency department. 

From the view of a general paediatrician a child illness and resuscitation course for all parents makes practical sense for the families and NHS services. 

Parents are expected to make important decisions about their children’s health and about seeking medical advice. But we know they find it difficult to work out if their child just has a minor viral illness, or something more serious. Unfortunately not all parents that are educationally equipped to read instructions from their red book, NHS Choices or health advice apps like the “HandiApp”. For them, we know they really need time and practice in a supportive environment to learn these decision making skills. We repeatedly see this in the families we teach resuscitation to on the wards. 

What is needed in my opinion, is a course for all parents and those in child care on how to manage the common emergency problems like choking, diarrhoea and vomiting, a seizure, recognising sepsis, managing a head injury, or in preventing accidents, drowning or cot death. These learnt skills help could keep children safe and healthy, so should be the skills highly valued by families. Vitally, early action may help prevent some medical emergencies deteriorating to life threatening illness. This can only be good for the health of children, and for children’s acute NHS services.” 

As a first step Sarah Newton MP is asking the Government to provide funding to enable a group of local NHS commissioning groups to pilot the provision of infant first aid for all parents and collect comprehensive data to ascertain its effectiveness.