RCPCH responds to new report on neonatal deaths

MBRRACE-UK has today launched a new report which looks at the quality of care received by babies who were either still born or who died shortly after birth.

This type of death occurred in 225 pregnancies in 2015 in the UK. It is important to study the deaths of these babies as any normally formed baby who is alive at the onset of labour at term would be expected to be alive and healthy at birth.

The report found:

  • The rate of term, singleton, intrapartum stillbirth and intrapartum-related neonatal death has more than halved since 1993 representing a reduction of around 220 intrapartum deaths per year.
  • Capacity issues were identified as a problem in over a quarter of the cases undergoing panel review. The majority of staffing and capacity problems were related to delivery suite.
  • The panel consensus was that in nearly 80% of deaths improvements in care were identified which may have made a difference to the outcome for the baby
  • There is an increasing proportion of births to mothers who have risk factors associated with an increased risk of perinatal death.

Responding to the latest report from MBRRACE-UK on neonatal death, Dr David Evans, Consultant Neonatologist and Vice President for Training and Assessment at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

“Whilst it’s hugely encouraging to see the number child deaths during or shortly after birth halved in the last two decades, it’s also clear that more can, and should, be done to prevent many of the deaths that do occur. The fact that 80% of deaths could potentially be avoided through better care before and during labour, as well as more effective joined up working between obstetric and neonatal teams, shows there is obviously room for improvement.

“Perhaps most concerning is the finding that service capacity affected over a fifth of deaths reviewed. Heavy workloads are cited as contributing to delays in induction in a third of women, which can have devastating effects for the unborn child.

“Neonatal units have a strict set of services standards in place in order to protect their vulnerable patients, but the RCPCH knows from its own surveys that many units fail to meet these standards due to workforce pressures. Standards will only be met, and the quality of care driven up, with investment in staff. Government must look at this with urgency. The lives of many babies could be saved as a result.”