England: analysis of child deaths shows importance of care for premature and young babies

23 July 2021

78% of child deaths occurred in a hospital setting

Actions to reduce the number of babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation and improve their outcomes are among the recommendations in a recent report.

The University of Bristol National Child Mortality Database’s national analysis of child deaths in England aims to learn lessons from all child deaths.

In their latest report, the 3347 deaths of under-18s between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 in England were analysed.

The majority of children who died (63%) were under one year old. Of these, where known, 69% were born preterm. In fact, 42% of all child deaths occurred before children were 28 days old.

For the first time, factors considered modifiable in children’s deaths were analysed. The most frequent was smoking by a parent or carer, followed by gaps in service delivery. Challenges with access to services and poor communication also feature. Others included substance/alcohol misuse by a parent or carer, and unsafe sleeping.

Overall, there were approximately 28 child deaths for every 100,000 children in England. 78% of child deaths occurred in a hospital setting.

The report makes a clear call to action for all professionals involved in planning or providing services to children to play an active part in reducing the number of children who die, encouraging them to use the data available.

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