A national report has revealed that the chance of a baby dying during childbirth varies across the UK
Medical negligence lawyer Sanja Strkljevic has expressed concern about the variation in baby death rates around the UK following the publication of the 2013 Perinatal Mortality Surveillance Report by MRRACE-UK.
The national report is produced by a research unit based at the University of Oxford which carries out evidence-based research aimed at improving the care provided to women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, the new-born period and early childhood.
Whilst welcoming the report’s findings that the overall rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the UK continues to improve Sanja is concerned that this improvement masks variations in rates across the UK.
The overall death rate of baby deaths was 7.3 per 1,000 births in 2013, a figure that has declined since 2003.
In 2013 15 babies died before or during delivery (a stillbirth), or within 28 days of being born (a neonatal death). The UK compares badly to other European countries, for example in Sweden the rate is 4.3 per every 1,000. The report found that no organisation had rates matching the lowest mortality rates in Europe. Only Barnet and Dorset had mortality rates significantly lower than the UK average.
However, some NHS hospitals have significantly higher death rates than others, suggesting that the lives of babies could be saved if all hospitals performed as well as the hospitals with lower mortality rates.
The report suggests that mothers from poorer backgrounds, and those of black and Asian descent have a greater risk of undergoing a stillbirth or neonatal death. The report also found that one in 12 deaths were caused by complications during delivery.
“Hospitals that are reporting high rates of baby deaths that are caused by complications of labour should be looking carefully at the standards of care they provide.
“We know from our own experience that poorly managed childbirth can result in the tragedy of stillbirth or neonatal death which could have been avoided if the attending medical staff had acted differently.
“It is shocking that some areas in the UK have much higher death rates in their maternity units than others.
“All women in the UK have the right to expect that the care they receive in hospitals, maternity units and midwife-led centres is consistent with the care that women receive in the areas with the best mortality rates.
“It is important that the government establishes a standardised review process for all deaths as soon as possible to help clinicians to identify where maternal and baby deaths can be avoided.
“When failings are identified in investigations following the death of a baby or mother I hope that hospitals will act on any recommendations that are made for improving patient safety; such as better training or more appropriate staffing levels, so that these events do not happen again.“