Charities warn that babies are dying unnecessarily due to overabundance of childbirth services, non-compliance with national safety standards and persistent social and racial inequalities.
More than 5,000 babies are stillborn or die in the first four weeks of life in the UK each year, according to a report by the baby loss charities Sons and Tommy’s.
That’s a big improvement from 2010, when the number was close to 6,500, but the report says that if better care were provided, nearly one-fifth of stillbirths would drop by 2021/22. It could have been avoided.
Also, little progress has been made in reducing preterm births, which have accounted for about 7% and 8% of all births since 2010.
Premature birth is an important risk factor. In 2020, three-quarters of his neonatal deaths were preterm babies.
“Losing a baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth is not just a ‘one of a kind’ thing to accept,” said Robert Wilson, head of joint policy at Sands and Tommy.
“Too many cases of loss result from care that does not follow nationally agreed standards.
“There is also significant pressure on the workforce, impacting our ability to provide safe care.”
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In the UK, the government’s goal is to halve infant mortality by 2025 compared to 2010 levels, but charities say more needs to be done to achieve that.
The lack of similar targets in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is also concerning.
Last year, 38% of maternity wards were rated inadequate or in need of improvement by the regulator’s medical quality committee, according to a Sands and Tommy’s report.
It also highlights persistent inequalities: Black babies in the UK are almost twice as likely to die within the first four weeks of life as white babies.
Stillbirth rates are almost twice as high in the least-favored regions of the country as in the least-favored regions, and the gap has widened since 2010.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We are committed to training and supporting NHS obstetric staff, improving neonatal care, developing a new core curriculum for professionals working in obstetric and neonatal services, and developing 33 maternal and child mental health services across England. We are investing £165m a year in deploying health services.” by March of next year.
“We have also established a maternal-child inequality commission to address maternal-infant inequalities while reducing maternal and neonatal mortality.”