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UK sees increase in babies dying within a year of being born

More babies are dying within a year of being born in the UK, in a “disturbing reversal” of several decades of the National Health Services' (NHS’) success in reducing infant mortality. The Guardian reports that health professionals, charities and midwives voiced serious concern at the trend in England and Wales, which was confirmed in data published by the Office for National Statistics.

The rate rose from 2.6 neonatal deaths per 1,000 births in 2015 to 2.7 for every 1,000 births in 2016. Smoking among mothers, maternal obesity, poverty and the England-wide shortage of midwives were all cited as potential explanations for the rise.

The infant mortality rate, showing deaths within the first year of a child’s life, also rose, from 3.7 to 3.8 per 1,000 live births over the same period. There is particular concern that both have risen for the second year in a row after years of steady improvement.
“It is deeply concerning to see a rise in infant mortality rates for the second year running. There are significant variations in mortality rates across the country, meaning there is much more to do to ensure that all health services are giving vulnerable babies the best chance of survival,” said Caroline Lee-Davey, the CEO of Bliss, which helps sick babies and their parents.

“Any increase is a real concern. There is a need to tackle some of the biggest factors influencing this, including smoking in pregnancy and rising levels of obesity, both of which can have an impact on infant mortality,” said Gill Walton, the CEO of the Royal College of Midwives. “Whilst we cannot make a direct connection between staffing levels, pressures on our maternity services and infant mortality, there is no doubt that overworked and under-resourced services cannot deliver the safest and highest-quality care”.

The rise emerged as a new report warned that Britain already has the fourth highest infant mortality among 15 OECD countries analysed by the Nuffield Trust and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Their analysis found that Britain is doing worse than other nations studied in seven of the 16 different indicators of the health of children aged between zero and four examined by Dr Ronny Cheung, an NHS paediatrician a hospital in London and visiting fellow at the Nuffield Trust.

“After many years of progress, health outcomes for babies and young children in the UK are now stalling in several key areas like infant mortality and immunisation rates, and we are lagging behind most other high-income countries on mortality, breastfeeding and obesity rates,” the thinktank is quoted in the report as saying.

Cheung found that the rates of death among babies aged less than 28 days and also those aged up to a year had plateaued since 2013. The UK had the fourth highest infant mortality rate among all the 15 countries in 2014.

The report says recent years have also seen increases in childhood cancer, while the rate of children being immunised against the measles vaccine has risen by 20% in a decade. However, fewer people have that jab than in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, and the uptake of inoculations against whooping cough and meningitis has dropped since last year.

Meanwhile, doctors claim that the first few weeks of 2018 saw over 10,000 more people die than usual. Lucinda Hiam at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Danny Dorling at Oxford University that say weekly mortality figures show 10,375 additional deaths (a rise of 12.4%) in England and Wales in the first seven weeks of 2018 compared with the previous five years.

The ageing population, influenza and do not explain the deaths, NHS Digital is quoted in the report as saying.

[link url=""]The Guardian report[/link]

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