Figures show rise in infant mortality rate

By Julie Griffiths on 15 March 2018 ONS Report Child Mortality

There has been an increase in infant deaths in England and Wales, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures for 2016, published on 14 March, showed there were 2651 infant deaths in 2016, compared with 2578 in 2015.

Infant deaths are defined as deaths of those aged under one year.

It means that the infant mortality rate has increased from 3.7 deaths per 1000 live births to 3.8.

However, the number of deaths has dropped significantly in the past three decades from 6313 in 1986.

RCM chief executive Gill Walton said that any increase was a real concern and more steps were needed to reverse it.

She also expressed concern at the regional variations.

The figures showed that, in 2016, the infant mortality rate remained highest in the West Midlands with six deaths per 1000 live births, and remained lowest in the East, with 3.1 deaths per 1000 live births.

The infant mortality rate for Wales was three deaths per 1000 live births – a 16.7% decrease from 2015.

‘The regional variations in rates are worrying. Trusts and regions must look to other areas where there are improvements being made to see why they are not doing as well, and to learn from those areas so that the regional variations are lessened.

‘There is no doubt that in areas of high depravation, infant death rates are higher and this is where services need targeted resource,’ she said.

Gill said there was also a need to tackle some of the biggest factors influencing this including smoking in pregnancy and rising levels of obesity, both of which can have an impact on infant mortality. She added that over-stretched maternity services would not help.

‘While we cannot make a direct connection between staffing levels, pressures on our maternity systems and infant mortality rates, there is no doubt that overworked and under-resourced services cannot deliver the safest and highest quality care,’ said Gill.  

Read the full ONS report Child mortality in England and Wales – 2016 here