Yesterday I spoke in the ‘Millie’s Trust’ debate about paediatric care. It happened because more than 100,000 people signed a petition to make paediatric first aid training in nurseries compulsory after 9 month old Millie choked to death while eating mashed Shepherds Pie in a Cheadle nursery in 2012.
I believe that every parent in Gloucester would have wanted me to be there and speak in a debate that clearly demonstrates people power.
It was a remarkable session, with an outstanding speech by Mark Hunter, Millie’s MP. Three of us, plus Minister and Shadow Minister, stayed for the whole debate. Importantly Millie’s parents, Joanne and Dan Thompson, were also there.
This was my opening speech:
“I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter)—not just for securing the debate, but for his calm and measured argument.
This debate marks yet another milestone in democracy. A while back, the tragic death of a nine-month-old child would not have led to a giant petition, signed by over 100,000 people, being considered by Parliament, with the chance perhaps to change the law. Although that would not have happened but for changes in parliamentary procedure, it is above all the result of the remarkable reaction and leadership shown by Millie’s parents, the Thompsons. Joanne is motivated by the purest motive that any of us parents could hope for—to make something positive out of profound tragedy, and light a candle in the darkness.
Although many of us can think of other recent examples of constituents campaigning successfully on issues dear to their hearts, today’s starting point must be to recognise both the very sad circumstances of Millie’s death and the positive reaction of Joanne and her husband afterwards in founding their charity. The heart of today’s debate is whether it should be mandatory in law for everyone working at nurseries to be given paediatric first aid training, or whether the law should stay where it was when the Childcare Act 2006 was brought in, under which it is mandatory that someone on the premises is trained, but not everyone.
My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) made a case for first aid training for every individual in the United Kingdom. He has a point: it is right that we should all go on a course. It is one of the best things I have ever done—I did so fairly recently, and no doubt far too late in life. However, that does not necessarily mean that to do so should be mandatory, thereby having rules, regulations and punishments attached to it—that people should be fined or there should be some other punishment for not going on a first aid course. I am not sure that today is the moment for a discussion of whether we should legislate that everybody should go on a course.”
Sir Bob Russell: “I should point out to my hon. Friend that I was not saying that there should be first aid training for every person, but that it should be part of the school curriculum. Clearly, over three generations everybody in the country would then be a trained first aider; others could—this is the example he has set himself—go voluntarily for training. However, if parents are entrusting their children to a nursery, it should be mandatory for the staff to have specific training for the needs of the role that they may be called upon to perform.”
Richard Graham: “My hon. Friend is right to differentiate between the two. The point I was going to make was that the fact that I went on a first aid course about two years ago does not necessarily make me that competent to attend to someone in a life-or-death situation today, let alone at some point in the future. Although it is a great idea that everybody at school should learn first aid, again, that will not necessarily make them competent to act in a life-or-death situation. As other hon. Members pointed out, the stress of that situation, the possibility of panic and the absence of recent and up-to-date experience of handling dummies and so on, will be crucial.
That brings me to the key points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle. He rightly touched on the fact that the number of children in child care is rising and on the need for care for the most vulnerable—this point will be especially relevant to the Minister, whose son cannot be much older than Millie was at the time of her death in 2012. The case that has been made today for mandatory paediatric first aid training for everybody working in child care is therefore a powerful one. The coroner concluded that, first, the ambulance service should carry paediatric equipment for such a situation and, secondly, that there should be a national review.
Joanne and her campaign for Millie’s Trust have already achieved the first objective, which other ambulance services around the country may want to consider. I shall certainly write to my own ambulance service in Gloucester. The second objective is open for the Minister’s response, and I hope he will bear in mind the already remarkable achievement of the trust in having trained several thousand teachers for free. This is a fantastic objective, and the number of teachers who have already been trained is fantastic.
I do not know the precise cost of ensuring that every person in every nursery is trained, and I hope that it would not increase the cost of the child care provided to so many of our constituents around the country. I hope that it will be absorbed by the nursery as a necessary part of providing that trust in child care that all of us who are parents would expect.
Today’s debate is an important step in recognising what an individual has done on behalf of her own child and her own family situation, but it has much wider applicability across the land to all of us who are parents and to everyone who puts their children, with trust, into a nursery school. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle made a strong case that is the stronger for having been measured and reasonable. I hope that the Minister—a reasonable man and a young father to boot—will be able to give us some reassurance about the national review as quickly as possible. I suspect that all of us here today hope that that review will lead to mandatory provision of paediatric first aid.”
Later I intervened twice on the Minister – first to clarify whether a review would take place:
“In a sense, there are two slightly different issues. I think the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) was close to implying that, had everyone received paediatric training in the nursery where Millie, very sadly, died, these events would not have happened, but I am not sure that any of us here today is in a position to make that judgment. However, on the wider point, many of us feel that future tragedies would be much less likely if everybody did receive paediatric training, so will the Minister respond to the call for a review, which the coroner, in effect, made?”
The Minister replied:
Mr Gyimah: “I can commit to a review next year of how the requirements have been strengthened and how they are bedding down in the nursery sector. I welcome my hon. Friend’s intervention. None of us can say what would happen if there was another situation on the ground, but we do have the coroner’s response, and I can commit to a review.”
And then secondly to ensure that mandatory training of all nursery staff would be included in the review:
“The Minister has helpfully confirmed that the national review will go ahead, as the coroner wanted. To avoid any doubt, will he confirm that it will include consideration of moves to make it mandatory for everybody working in nurseries to receive paediatric training?”
Again the Minister confirmed:
Mr Gyimah: “My hon. Friend is fast bringing me to the end of my speech—I was going to address that right at the end. Yes, when we have a national review, we will look at making this mandatory.”
I believe that at the end of the debate the Thompsons had achieved their main aim of a Review, which will include the option of mandatory paediatric first aid training for all staff who work in nurseries. Now it’s about the timing of the Review.
The full debate can be read here
I was very encouraged to get this response from Jade Dobson who works at the GRH:
“I have been corresponding recently with our MP for Gloucester Richard Graham regarding the debate and I’m pleased to say that not only did he attend, he also spoke out at length during the debate in favour of a change in law to protect our children.
The debate was an important step in seeing a change in the law and it’s heartening to know we are being supported locally with this.”
Thank you Jade. As you say it’s not the end, but it is the end of the beginning. Changing the law because of Millie is now a possibility, and perhaps more than that.