The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have welcomed the latest MBRRACE report released today, which looks at the rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths during 2019.
The results indicate that whilst perinatal deaths in the UK are declining – with the rate of stillbirths across the UK reducing by over 20% from 2013 to 2019 – there are key areas which need to be prioritised. The research shows an urgent need to improve care for mothers and babies from Black and Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and care for those living in more deprived areas.
Key findings include:
- Babies born to women in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to be stillborn, and are at a 73% excess risk of neonatal death, compared to women living in least deprived area. This risk has increased between 2015 to 2019.
- Mortality rates are higher for babies of Black ethnicity, with stillbirth rates over twice what they are for babies of White ethnicity, and neonatal mortality rates at 43% higher.
- There have been large reductions to the rates of stillbirth for babies born to the oldest mothers, but mother ages 40 and above are at a 41% increased risk of stillbirth and a 37% increased risk of neonatal death compared with mothers ages 30-34.
- The multiple impact of ethnicity, mother’s age and deprivation is highlighted by a stillbirth rate of 10.54 and 6.91 per 1,000 total births for babies of Black and Black British ethnicity and Asian and Asian British ethnicity respectively born to mothers aged over 35 years living in the most deprived areas.
Commenting on the report, Dr Eddie Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“It is clear that there needs to be a multidimensional approach to address the wider impact socioeconomic position and ethnicity is having on the quality of care received. Healthcare professionals, policy makers, and public health services are all aware that women from more deprived backgrounds and women of Black and Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are consistently being let down by the healthcare system. There is an urgent need to work together, eliminating the unnecessary increased risk to these women.
“These disparities are something we as healthcare leaders also have a duty to address and we are committed to providing innovative clinical solutions.
“Our new Tommy’s clinical decision tool – currently being developed and piloted in four early adopter maternity units across England – takes all the relevant risk factors into account and produces an individualised personal risk for adverse outcomes during pregnancy. The app, which has been co-produced with women, will enable clinicians to ensure that the right women receive the right care – irrespective of ethnicity or socioeconomic background.
“Efforts which continue to work towards lowering the rate of perinatal deaths must account for the disparities of women’s experiences, and give all women equal access and fair outcomes for themselves and their babies.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“This report paints a stark and deeply worrying picture of the impact of deprivation and inequality, and a health and social system that is failing mothers, their babies and their families. Babies are dying that should not in one of the world’s richest nations with one of the most advanced economies. This is shameful and it reflects the lack of investment in health and social care. It also shows the lack of resolve and determination on the part of current and previous governments to address and reverse the gaping and widening inequality gap in this country.
“Efforts must be made urgently to focus care, resources and funding towards those that need it most; those highlighted in this report. This must start with eradicating the serious shortage of midwives and other maternity professionals, and injecting significant and additional funding into our NHS and maternity services. Failing to do this means more babies will die that should not, and more families will suffer the tragedy of those losses. It is a scandal and it must be addressed.”
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Notes to editor:
The full MBRRACE-UK report can be viewed at: https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/mbrrace-uk/reports
About the RCM
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.
About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.