Study finds significant variation in stillbirths and neonatal mortality across the UK

Research published today shows the wide regional variation in the incidence of stillbirth and neonatal deaths in the UK.

The MBRRACE-UK report focuses on rates of stillbirth and neonatal death across the UK. MBRRACE-UK focuses on babies born at 24 weeks of gestation or more. The report found that in 2014 there was a slight fall in both the stillbirth and neonatal death rates (4.161 and 1.772) compared to 2013 (4.201 and 1.842) although this pattern was not uniform across the UK.

However the report reveals that behind these headline figures there remains significant variation across the UK that is not solely explained by factors that influence the rate of death such as poverty, mother’s age, multiple birth and ethnicity.

The mortality rates for NHS Trusts and Health Boards have been compared within groups to the group average, using a traffic light system to highlight those where action needs to be taken. 

Dr Brad Manktelow, Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester, who led the statistical analysis said: “We have used innovative statistical methods which allow us to better take into account unit size, the type of care provided and known risk factors for stillbirth and neonatal death in order to identify organisations with high mortality rates which cannot be explained just by chance alone.”

Professor Elizabeth Draper, Professor of Perinatal and Paediatric Epidemiology at the University of Leicester, said:  “Having a better understanding of the impact of babies with major congenital anomalies, where death is inevitable, is of key importance in identifying the group where avoidable deaths may be occurring. Local standardised review of all stillbirths and neonatal deaths should enable a better understanding of which deaths might be amenable to prevention strategies.”

In 2014 the effect of gestational age on these mortality rates was examined and shows that around two thirds of stillbirths and neonatal deaths were preterm. This indicates that the targeting of initiatives to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death must include a focus on reducing preterm birth.