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MIDLAND: Baby deaths shock for Birmingham.

Byline: By Sarah Probert

More babies die in Birmingham before their first birthday than in any other part of the country, according to figures released yesterday.

The charity Bliss found a baby in Birmingham was eight times more likely to die before its first birthday than one in Surrey from 2002 to 2004.

The organisation is calling on the Government to tackle infant mortality after figures revealed a wide variation in death rates. It said health bodies needed more advice about providing care to expectant mothers.

In 2004, 2,391 babies died before the age of one out of 500,000 births.

Two-thirds of such deaths are attributed to being born prematurely, but other factors play a role.

Bliss, which obtained the information from a question in parliament by Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley, found Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust had the highest infant mortality at 12.4 deaths per 1,000, twice as high as the national average of 5.2.

In East Birmingham there were 9.2 deaths per 1,000 and 8.2 in Coventry.

Bliss, which supports families with premature children, said staying healthy in pregnancy and good ante-natal care could have a huge impact.

The Government has promised to reduce infant mortality by ten per cent by 2010, but latest figures have showed despite small declines in death rates, the target is in danger.

Bliss chief executive Rob Williams said: "We urge the Government to respond to these shocking disparities. These targets can only be achieved through the establishment of a national, government-led Infant Mortality Commission to research why there are disparities across England and to recommend ways forward to reduce the rate."

Judy Ledger, of Coventry-based charity Baby Lifeline, set up to help pregnant women and newborn babies, said work had been done to look at the rates of baby deaths across the country.

She added: "This is a demographic issue, there are a multitude of reasons why these deaths may be higher in these areas. We are constantly looking at this issue and working with leading health experts to try and address the problem."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Infant mortality rates are at the lowest level ever achieved in this country. We have improved neo-natal services around the country, developing clinical networks to target support to the smallest and sickest babies.

"We have also reduced rates of smoking among pregnant women and mothers of infants, as smoking is a risk factor for infant mortality.

"Our ten-year plan for children and maternity services includes work on access to maternity services by vulnerable and disadvantaged women."

Sophia Christie, chair of BirminghamHealth Partnership Executive, said: "The high infant mortality rate in Birmingham particularly in some of our more deprivedwards - is recognised as a key priority for local health services and we take this very seriously.

"The BirminghamHealth Partnership - representing the city's Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), the City Council and other partners - has developed an action plan for the city, which sets out clearly how we will be tackling this important issue."

Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust was unavailable for comment yesterday.


Central Birmingham - 12.4 per 1,000

North Kirklees - 11.2

Central Bradford - 10.4

East Birmingham - 9.2

Central Manchester - 8.6

South East Sheffield - 8.4

Nottingham - 8.3

Coventry 8.2
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 29, 2006
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