Growth in infant mortality highlights desperate pressures on the NHS

The annual statistics on stillbirths, infant deaths and childhood deaths in England and Wales were published yesterday by the government. The report also includes data on the causes of death and information on key risk factors.

This report evidences the first two-year increase in infant mortality rates in England and Wales for the last 30 years. Former Health Minister and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said:

Infant mortality has been in steep decline for over 30 years. However, this success cannot lead to complacency.

Figures released today show there is a trend towards increased infant mortality rates over the last two years. Losing a child is one of the most heart-breaking experiences imaginable. The government must urgently examine the cause and what might be driving this disturbing reversal of historic falls in infant mortality. The fact that the NHS is under such strain may well be contributing to this.

That is why the Liberal Democrats want to put a penny in the pound on income tax, to maintain and improve standards in the NHS.

At Spring Conference, a motion was passed celebrating the NHS at 70 and recognising the wonderful contribution of NHS staff.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Baroness Judith Jolly said:

This motion celebrates the 70 years of the excellent health care system we have benefited from in this country.

It is important that, going forward, we recognise the growing pressures on our NHS and social care and put measures in place to ensure our NHS can continue providing the vital care that we all rely on, for decades to come.

The Liberal Democrats know that this will require bold steps which is why, in addition to our commitment to get the NHS the funding it needs by raising income tax by a penny in the pound, we will also work to improve quality of care and medical research by reviewing our approach to the use of health data and fund initiatives to improve mental health and preventative care.

It was overwhelmingly agreed that the party would hold a review of the current capture, use and ownership of health data, with a view to making recommendations that balance the principles of assisting medical research, protecting the privacy of patients, and guarding against any unjustified concentration of data ownership.

A commitment to introducing additional resources to allow Mental Health Support Teams to be made available in all schools by 2019 was also passed.

Thirdly, the motion included a call to introduce a national scheme of preventative blood pressure monitoring run by community pharmacies.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for St. Albans Daisy Cooper, who submitted the motion, said:

Liberal Democrats have a plan to tackle the three big challenges facing the NHS at 70: we’ll tackle funding with a ring-fenced 1p NHS and social care tax, we’ll address the staffing crisis with an “NHS passport” to guarantee the rights of 59,000 EU health workers and the re-establishment of student nurse bursaries, and we’ll empower individuals by tackling health inequalities at a community level.

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  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '18 - 9:12am

    Possibly the moderators have had enough of me banging on about how our economic understanding is all wrong and how such measures as a 1p increase on income tax to “fund the NHS” are, at best, inadequate and, at worst, counterproductive. They’ll just push the economy deeper into recession and reduce the tax take generally. We can spend more, without raising taxes, if inflation is kept under control.

    But, unless Lib Dems, and others of progressive opinion, are prepared to get to grips with the subject, we’ll see more (if we haven’t already) and more effects of neoliberal induced economic austerity to accompany rising rates of child mortality. Falling educational standards, lower life expectancy, increased levels of homelessness, etc etc.

  • David Evershed 15th Mar '18 - 10:53am

    The ONS statisticians comment about the latest child mortality figures were as follows:

    “In 2016, there were small increases in both the infant (3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births) and neonatal (2.7 deaths per 1,000 live births) mortality rates in England and Wales from 2015 but these rates remain low in historical terms (based on death occurrences). These increases can be attributed to many risk factors, such as the mother’s country of birth, mother’s age at birth of child, birthweight and the parents’ socioeconomic status.”

  • Losing a child is one of the most heart-breaking experiences imaginable.
    Yes it is, however, now having two teenagers we’ve largely forgotten the pain we experienced in achieving this outcome.

    My point is that the heartbreak is relative, immediately after the death of a baby it is immense, several years later with the distractions of children, it is just a memory that causes you to hug your children a little tighter.

  • Spencer Hagard 15th Mar '18 - 12:49pm

    The ONS is correct. Despite its year-on-year rise, the 2016 England and Wales [E&W] infant mortality rate [IMR] remains low in E&W historical terms. However, in comparison with the rest of the World, the UK’s situation is unimpressive, and getting worse.

    The World Bank’s provisional estimates for 2016, were already showing the UK as a whole in 17th place among the 28 EU countries, and 24th in the OECD league, with IMR in Iceland, Finland and Slovenia roughly half the UK rate.

    According to the UN Population Division’s quinquennial statistics for 175 countries, the UK IMR slipped from global 9th place in 1950-55, through 12th (1965-70), 16th (1975-80), 21st (1995-2000) to 28th in 2010-15.

    The ONS figures show that the 2016 IMR rise in E&W – albeit small – is entirely attributable to rises in perinatal and neonatal mortality. These may well be caused by the huge and growing pressures on the NHS, and our spokespersons are right to emphasise this point.

    But they, and the Liberal Democrats as a whole, need to get a grip on the huge role played by social and economic factors in causing infant mortality. These have been described and widely understood for at least 150 years. Poverty kills infants. Social inequality kills infants. Bad housing kills infants. Air pollution kills infants. Poorest infants are most at risk. Until the UK makes a fundamental change of course, these and allied factors will continue to kill infants, and cause other large scale harms to health and wellbeing, and social cohesion.

    And until the Liberal Democrats demonstrate to the electorate that we understand this, and have convincing and coherent policies to put the UK on that better course, our electoral fortunes will not recover.

  • I would urge people to read Bill Gates’ open letter to Warren Buffett on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundation on reducing child deaths globally in developing countries. And also highlight it to others on social media

    And of course that is your and my work through our taxes and the money.

    Astonishingly 122 million children’s lives have been saved globally since 1990. Preventing child death is so important in improving the lives of the poorest of the poor in the world – our fellow human beings.

    It is also in our self-interest. A richer developing world enriches the world generally giving a big market for our goods and services.

    It makes me slightly less irritated at Windows!

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