Rising neonatal mortality rates highlights Government failing on National Ambition

Posted on March 01, 2023


Neonatal mortality rates increased slightly in 2021, as revealed in new data published today.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows just how much further there is to go for the Government to meet its National Ambition to half neonatal deaths by 2025.

The neonatal mortality rate (for babies aged under 28 days) was 2.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in England and Wales in 2021; with the mortality rate increasing for babies born at lower gestational ages, likely because of complications related to prematurity.

Prior to 2021, neonatal mortality rates had been declining year on year.

The data also highlights the continuing health inequalities in risk of neonatal mortality – with Black babies, babies born to mothers under the age of 20, and babies born in the most deprived areas being at significantly higher risk.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive at Bliss, said: “It is extremely concerning to see neonatal mortality increase in 2021 compared to the previous year, as well as the continuing health inequalities which show a stark difference in risk of neonatal death for babies from ethnic minority groups and from deprived backgrounds.

“Being born premature is still the most significant risk for neonatal mortality, so it is absolutely crucial for the Government to prioritise efforts to meet the National Ambition to reduce pre-term births from 8% to 6% by 2025, alongside urgent work to reduce neonatal mortality to meet the target of halving rates in all groups by 2025.

“In England, the NHS is due to publish a Single Delivery Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Care shortly, and it is vital that this focuses investment and attention on driving improvements in care and outcomes for all babies born premature or sick.”

Bliss recognises that these statistics might be distressing for parents. Our support team can be contacted on hello@bliss.org.uk.

Read the full report here