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Regional variations in stillbirth and neonatal death rates must be ‘a wake-up call’

17 May 2016

The latest MBRRACE-UK study, published today, finds there is ‘significant variation’ in stillbirths and neonatal mortality across the UK. In response, Bliss, the premature and sick baby charity, is now urgently calling on healthcare commissioners and policymakers to provide the investment needed to tackle serious staffing shortages in neonatal care.

The new MBRRACE-UK study, the Perinatal Mortality Surveillance Report 2014, compares rates of stillbirth and neonatal death across the UK, and reports that the regional variations found for 2014 – which ranged from 4.9 to 7.1 deaths per 1,000 births – cannot solely be explained by factors that are known to influence the rate of death such as poverty, mother’s age, multiple birth and ethnicity.

Recent research has shown that the level of one-to-one nursing care in neonatal intensive care units directly affects mortality rates; however Bliss’ recent Baby Report for England has highlighted the significant staffing shortages affecting neonatal care.

“Over 90,000 babies born in the UK each year depend on neonatal care to survive and thrive – and that care depends on hospitals having the right numbers of nurses and doctors in place to meet quality standards”, said Caroline Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss.

“The government set out a comprehensive vision for neonatal care in 2009 – but six years on we are falling further behind on critical measures of quality and safety, and the shortfall in funding means units are simply unable to meet these standards. These latest findings must now be a wake-up call for policy-makers and healthcare commissioners to take action”.

MBRRACE-UK is a team of academics, clinicians and charity representatives led from the University of Leicester. It is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership to monitor and investigate stillbirth and neonatal deaths as part of the Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme, for which Bliss is a member of the Independent Advisory Group.

For more information on the Bliss baby report 2015: hanging in the balance, please visit:

For media enquiries, please contact Deborah Hyde, Media Relations Officer by calling 0207 378 5741 or 07956 320 486, or emailing


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