Premature babies: Johnstone leads Holyrood debate on extended leave

Alison Johnstone MSP, Health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, will today lead a Holyrood debate on extending maternity and paternity leave and expenses for parents of premature babies.

Research by the charity Bliss shows that there are around 5,800 babies born prematurely every year in Scotland who require specialist hospital care and that this extended period of care can have a serious impact on the health, wellbeing and financial security of the families concerned.

Parental leave is reserved to Westminster, and a Bill aimed at extending leave for parents of premature babies has been proposed.

Alison Johnstone, Health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:

"At the moment, if a baby is born early the mother’s maternity leave starts straight away and the end of that leave is brought forward. The law doesn't allow it to be extended.

"Women can lose weeks of bonding at home if their premature baby is kept in hospital. Parents can face significant travel costs as they pay regular visits to see their child. And babies born prematurely are more likely to have additional health needs, so when mum needs to go back to work, baby might not be ready for childcare.

"It's a worry that the UK Government is not being pro-active on this issue and seems to think the current maternity system is fine.

"I hope by bringing this debate at Holyrood, MSPs from all parties can increase the pressure on Westminster to act. Scottish families who face the health and financial impacts from a premature birth deserve fair treatment."