Health and Social Care Committee highlights wide variation in neonatal mortality

Posted on July 06, 2021

Bliss responds to the latest reports from the Health and Social Care Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee Expert Panel.

A new report from MPs calling for urgent improvements to be made to NHS maternity services in England has been welcomed by Bliss.

The UK’s leading charity for babies born premature or sick is urging for greater action on improvements from the government following today’s report by the Health and Social Care Committee.

The report found:

  • Asian and Asian British babies and Black and Black British babies are at an increased risk of neonatal mortality compared to white babies and that the disparity in outcomes has not improved since 2010
  • Babies born to parents living in socio-economically deprived areas are at greater risk of death than those who are less deprived, and the disparity in outcomes has also not improved
  • The annual budget for maternity care in England should be increased by a minimum of £200m to £350m with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, a separate report from the expert panel on the committee also looked at progress on a number of targets already set by the government.

Although some progress has been made, the panel found “little evidence” the government will meet its targets of halving the 2010 rates of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries by 2025.

The panel said efforts to reduce maternal deaths were “inadequate”, although there had been “significant progress” in reducing stillbirths and neonatal deaths.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss said: “Today's reports from the Health and Social Care Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee Expert Panel shed further light on the unacceptable variation in mortality and outcomes for babies, and their mothers. Despite an overall decline in the neonatal death rate, it is deeply troubling that babies from minority ethnic and socio-economically deprived backgrounds are still far more likely to die and that this disparity has not changed over 10 years.

“Bliss therefore fully supports the Health and Social Care Committee's call to end the disparity between maternal and neonatal outcomes and we urge the Government to develop a robust, timetabled and resourced strategy, to make progress on this rapidly. The death of a baby has an unimaginable impact on families, and it is these families who shoulder the lifelong consequences of a system where inequity is rife.

 “Bliss also welcomes the Expert Panel's recommendation that the government should continue to measure and drive improvement in outcomes among babies born under 24 weeks gestation, following a change to the National Ambition earlier this year, and would urge the Department of Health and Social Care to set an additional target to reduce mortality amongst this group.”