Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, responds to the latest report from MBRRACE-UK that shows that rate of baby deaths in the UK is not shifting:
“It’s welcome news that the rate of baby deaths has fallen in the four years since MBRRACE-UK has been reporting. It’s particularly good to see an almost halving of twin stillbirths from 2014. It’s saddening, however, that today’s report shows there was little change in the rate and overall number of babies who died between 2015 and 2016. It’s still the case that almost 15 babies died every day in the UK either before, during or shortly after birth in 2016.
“In the last decade Sands has played a key role in raising awareness of just how many babies die every day in the UK. Our stillbirth rate in particular has remained relatively high among similarly wealthy countries. This has resulted in numerous NHS initiatives to improve safety and women’s experiences of care, including the Maternity Transformation Programme, with 9 individual workstreams around improving maternity for women in England, and the Saving Babies Lives’ Care Bundle. The Maternity and Children Quality Improvement Collaborative programme in Scotland; Safer Pregnancy Wales and the Northern Ireland Maternal and Infant Steering Group, are all focused on reducing deaths. We very much hope that these programmes will result in real change in 2017 and 2018 and that the necessary resources are made available to ensure these initiatives have real impact on saving lives.
“The effective use of Perinatal Mortality Review Tool (PMRT) which has now rolled out across England, Scotland and Wales will be key to ensuring that every baby death is investigated to understand what happened so parents receive answers about why their baby died and organisations learn from deaths, and know where to improve care for future families. Engaging parents in the review of their baby’s death is a principle of the PMRT, but it is important to note that this will put pressure on staff time and resources.
“Today’s report reminds us too that the wider societal picture is important. Poverty, inequality, ethnicity all increase a woman’s risk of losing her baby, as do smoking and obesity. This is MBRRACE-UK’s 4th annual report and, between the lines, it iterates once again that until we have a healthier, better informed, and more equal society, some women will remain at greater risk than others.”
The new report from MBRRACE-UK shows that rate of baby deaths in the UK remained the same between 2015 and 2016.
The rates have fallen in the four years MBRRACE-UK has been reporting, between 2013 and 2016, by just over 6%, with a halving of the stillbirth rate in twins. It remains to be seen whether the Secretary of State for Health’s ambition to reduce deaths by 20% in the next two years (by 2020) is achievable.
This is the fourth annual report by MBRRACE-UK, the national audit programme, and provides information about babies who were born in 2016 in the UK.
Key findings for babies born in 2016
- 780,043 babies were born in 2016
- 3,065 were stillborn (died before birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy)
- A further 889 died between 22 and 24 weeks’ gestation
- 1,337 died in the first four weeks of life (after 24 weeks’ gestation)
- 70% of stillbirths or deaths happened before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- 1 in 6 babies who died had a congenital anomaly that was likely to be fatal
- the UK stillbirth rate fell between 2013 and 2015 to around 3.9 stillbirths for every 1,000 births, but remained much the same between 2015 and 2016
- the stillbirth rate in twins fell by 44% and the death of newborn twins reduced by a third between 2014 and 2016
- overall 300 fewer babies died either before or shortly after birth in the 4 years between 2013 and 2016, but that fall occurred mostly before 2016
MBRRACE-UK is a collaboration led from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit in Oxford with members from the University of Leicester, who lead the perinatal aspects of the work, including perinatal mortality surveillance, and the Universities of Birmingham and University College London, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a general practitioner, and Sands, the Stillbirth and neonatal death charity. This group runs the Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme.