MP Fiona Bruce has welcomed in the Commons a statement by Health Minister Nadine Dorries in response to the publication of the independent report on the safety of medicines and medical devices, ‘First do no harm’.

Fiona has supported campaigners for many years for justice on the risk to the unborn child of taking valproate in pregnancy to treat epilepsy.

Fiona was speaking in the Commons following what she said was an apology by the Health Minister about errors and oversights by health authorities going back decades, confirmed in an independent report chaired by Baroness Cumberlege.

Fiona said: “As vice-chair of the all-party group on valproate and other anti-epileptic drugs in pregnancy I thank the Minister for her tone.

“Does she agree it is shocking that the Committee on Safety of Medicines as long ago as 1973—the predecessor of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency —was clearly aware of the risks in pregnancy of the use of anticonvulsants?

“It said they are liable to produce abnormalities. Over that period 20,000 children could have been affected.

“There are families, such as those of Janet Williams and Emma Murphy, who have campaigned tirelessly, who now have to care for those children, potentially for their entire lives.

“Much more support is needed for those children from local authorities and health authorities.

“It has not been given until now as a result of the lack of recognition of the link between, and risks of, anticonvulsants in pregnancy and abnormalities.

“Will the Minister, when she meets us, focus on ensuring this issue is taken forward so more support can be provided?”

Speaking after the report’s publication she said: “This is a landmark report which highlights the importance of patients being listened to by health authorities.

“I am hopeful the Health Minister’s determination, as she stated in the House of Commons to make changes so this happens effectively, means never again do campaigners like Janet Williams and Emma Murphy, who I’ve worked with for a few of the many years they have campaigned for justice on this issue, have to work as they have done to get their voices heard.

“These remarkably brave women campaigned for decades, as the Cumberlege Report states, to achieve an acknowledgement of their concerns, ‘resorting to the media and politicians to take up their cause because the healthcare system did not’.

Thanking Fiona for her support, Emma Murphy and Janet Williams said: “After eight years of campaigning at Parliament we are delighted with the recommendations from the independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review.

“We are pleased to see the review not only took on board our evidence found at National Archives, but most importantly acknowledged the many heart-breaking stories from families affected by sodium valproate, which highlighted how women in particular have felt ignored and dismissed from healthcare professionals, despite them knowing something was wrong with their child.

“An apology has been a long time coming. We now look forward to meeting with the Minister and Department of Health and working with them to ensure the recommendations are fulfilled.”

Fiona Bruce with campaigners Janet Williams and Emma Murphy