New research published today in The Lancet has shown that the UK has the highest death rates of infants and children in Western Europe.
Although worldwide the UK has very low rates of deaths for babies and children, this new research shows that in Western Europe the UK is almost at the bottom of the table. Last year in the UK 3800 babies and children under five died, this is the highest number of deaths in the region and means that 4.9 out of every 1000 babies born will die.
The UK was shown to have the worst outcomes compared with nearly every other western European nation for early neonatal deaths (death before six days) and post-neonatal deaths (death between 29 and 364 days).
There are a combination of reasons for this including the need to support expectant mothers to make healthy choices, such as stopping smoking and drinking alcohol. There is also a substantial gap before we reach safe staffing levels in all neonatal and maternity services throughout the UK, plus there needs to be much better identification and referral of those women at greater risk of preterm birth or complex pregnancies.
Bliss’ Chief Executive Andy Cole said, “It remains an appalling reality that babies and children in the UK still have a significantly greater chance of dying than those in Western Europe. Bliss has been arguing for a greater focus on maternal and infant health for many years to ensure that these shocking statistics are reduced. We are calling on the Government to make a significant investment in early years care to improve the future health of all babies and children. A national strategy to reduce infant mortality by at least 20 per cent in the next decade must be a priority.”