Data shows Government off-track in reducing neonatal deaths

New data published by the Office for National Statistics shows an increase in neonatal deaths in England and continued inequalities for babies from Black ethnic groups, and those from deprived areas.

Published by the ONS today, data shows that in England rates of neonatal death in babies born at 24 weeks or over increased in 2021 to 1.4/1000 live births, from 1.3/1000 in 2020 (England) and to 1.6 from 1.4 in Wales.

The rate of neonatal death among babies of some Black ethnicity groups was almost double the overall rate for England and Wales. The neonatal mortality rate was also almost double among those living in the most deprived areas of England compared to the least. 

With a previously-confirmed increase in rates of stillbirth in 2021, this latest data release shows that there has been an overall increase in the rate of babies dying before, during or soon after birth. 

The Government has set targets for halving the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths by 2025 compared to 2010 levels. Sadly, today’s data shows that we are moving further away from achieving these targets.  

Robert Wilson, Head of the Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit, said: 

Today’s stats confirm that there is a concerning gap between Government rhetoric on maternity safety and the reality of the numbers of babies dying.  

Government commitments to act on the findings of recent reviews of maternity services need to result in urgent action to save lives. We are concerned that this hasn’t yet led to the fundamental change required to ensure everyone has equitable access to the best possible care. 

The target to halve the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in England by 2025 compared to 2010 levels is not on track. Today’s data makes clear that the Government is moving further away from achieving their ambition. We need a much more comprehensive approach from government to ensure they are met.