Manchester

Manchester baby death rate increases by 40%, says council report

Baby hand holding adult's hand Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption There has been a slight increase in infant mortality across England in recent years

The death rate for babies in Manchester has increased by nearly 40% since the beginning of the decade, a report by the city council said.

Some 151 children died before their first birthday during 2015-17, a rise from 108 recorded in 2011-2013, the Local Democracy Reporting Service says.

The local authority, which has the fourth highest infant mortality rate in England, has developed plans designed to tackle issues raised in its report.

It said it was "extremely concerned".

This plan will go before councillors next week.

'Deprivation'

The report said "the city council and partners are extremely concerned by the recent rise in infant mortality".

Smoking during pregnancy was identified as the single biggest risk factor in the report, followed by deprivation and maternal obesity.

Although the infant mortality rate is lower than it was in the late 1990s, the report said there had been an "unusually large increase" in the number of infant deaths in 2016 compared with 2015, particularly during the neonatal period when a baby is less than 28 days old.

Some 51 infants less than four weeks old died in 2016, compared with 28 the previous year. In 2017, 41 infants died within the first month of their life.

These numbers do not include stillbirths.

'Very worrying'

Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive at the premature and sick baby charity Bliss, said neonatal mortality had increased slightly across England during the last two years.

It was "very worrying", she said, "to see such a significant rise in Manchester".

Ms Lee-Davey welcomed the council's determination to tackle the problem, in particular the decision to "include a strong focus on public health and supporting healthy pregnancies".

If adopted by councillors, the town hall will roll out a smoke-free pregnancy programme and encourage breastfeeding and treat maternal obesity as a "priority".

Across England, the infant mortality rate rose in England in 2016, but the average rate of 3.9 deaths to 1,000 live births remains well below Manchester's rate of 6.4.

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