Perinatal mortality down, but better reporting would support care improvements

Better-quality data on baby deaths would help target services where they're needed most
empty cot

Better-quality data on baby deaths would help target services where they're needed most

Picture: iStock

Improvements have been made to reduce neonatal deaths and still births but more needs to be done to tackle mortality, a study found.

The report found overall UK perinatal mortality rate has fallen since 2013 but has remained almost unchanged from last year. 

Overall, 300 fewer babies died either before or shortly after birth between 2013 and 2016, but the reduction in deaths was concentrated in 2016.

Reductions in twins mortality 

The stillbirth rate in twins fell by 44% and the death of newborn twins went down by one third between 2014 and 2016.

There was wide variation across the UK in the reporting of deaths to data collection body, Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquires (MBRRACE-UK), which produced the report, in 2016.

‘It is vital healthcare provision learns from this investigation – about variations in post-mortem examination rates and delays in reporting data and how this may affect care improvements’

Carmel Bagness, RCN

Data entry began within six months of a death for 95.1% of cases in Wales, 86.7% in England, 71.7% in Northern Ireland and 64% in Scotland.

RCN professional lead for midwifery and women’s health Carmel Bagness said: ‘It is vital that healthcare provision learns from this investigation, including concerns around post-mortem examination rates continuing to vary and delays in reporting data on neonatal and stillbirth deaths from each country and how this may have a negative impact on directing care improvements where they are needed.

Bereavement care pathway

‘The RCN is developing a bereavement care pathway for pregnancy and baby loss, which is one initiative that should help to create greater parity of care, as well as compassion to all those affected by such tragic losses.  

‘To meet its aim to reduce stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths by 20% by 2020, the government must continue to invest in specialist units and public health messaging on smoking and obesity to help reduce risk factors.’

Stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands chief executive Clea Harmer said: ‘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 this report shows there was little change in the rate and overall number of babies who died between 2015 and 2016.’

Related material 

MBRRACE-UK Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care – Lessons learned to inform maternity care from the UK and Ireland Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity 2013–15

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