Infant mortality rate: increase in England and Wales between 2015 and 2016

Office for National Statistics data from 2016 reveals that despite the recent increase, the infant mortality rate is down 60% compared to 1986
Infant mortality rates
  • 2,651 infant deaths in England and Wales in 2016 – compared to 2,578 deaths in 2015

Office for National Statistics data from 2016 reveals that despite the recent increase, the infant mortality rate is down 60% compared to 1986

Picture: iStock

Infant mortality rates in England and Wales have risen between 2015 and 2016, sparking concerns about the effect of austerity measures and a reduction in vital healthcare staff.

Official figures show there were 2,651 infant deaths in England and Wales in 2016.

The infant mortality rate (for babies less than one year old) was 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, an increase from 2,578 (3.7 deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2015.

The data is from a wider set of childhood deaths statistics from 2016 released by the Office for National Statistics.

Despite the recent increase, the rate is still down 60.4% compared to 1986 when it stood at 9.6 deaths per 1,000 live births – from a total of 6,313 deaths.

‘Decrease in health visitor and school nurse numbers’

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith feels ‘ongoing austerity, more families in poverty, a decrease in health visitor and school nurse numbers, and changes to the benefits system’ could all be said to have had an effect on mortality rate.

She added: ‘There is a clear need for the government to focus on improving health and lives of children. They are our future population.

‘Many of the health problems and conditions experienced by adults have their roots in childhood – physical and mental health issues.

‘We know the growing population of older patients and bed blocking is a massive issue, but organisations need to focus on both ends of the spectrum.’

Strain on the NHS

Former health minister Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said: ‘Infant mortality has been in steep decline for over 30 years. However, this success cannot lead to complacency.

‘Losing a child is one of the most heartbreaking experiences imaginable.

‘The fact that the NHS is under such strain may well be contributing to this.’ 

He pledged his party would put a penny in the pound on income tax specifically for the NHS.

In 2016, there were 3,112 stillbirths which was down from a total of 3,147 in 2015.

Common cause of child death

Cancers remain the most common cause of death for children aged one to 15 years, accounting for 20.6% of deaths in 2016.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘There is nothing more devastating than losing a child so it is encouraging to see stillbirth rates at their lowest in 25 years — demonstrating progress towards our aim to halve rates of stillbirth and neonatal death by 2025.

‘On top of investment in staff training and safety equipment, we recently announced that the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch will investigate all unexplained stillbirths and neonatal deaths, which will provide vital learning for the NHS and ensure tragedies are not repeated.’

Further information

In other news