Shropshire Star

Report shows county's child mortality rates 'significantly worse' than national average

The death rate for children in the county was "significantly worse" than the rest of England over the last year, according to a report set to be considered by health bosses this week.

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The figures are contained in a report to be considered on Wednesday

The figures are contained in a paper to be discussed by NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care Board (ICB) on Wednesday.

Dr Nick White, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said the data needs "further investigation to ensure that there are no underlying issues".

The paper shows that the rates of deaths in neonates, infants, and children from one to 17, were all higher than the national average for 2022/23.

On a rolling four-year basis the rate for children aged from one to 17 was lower than the national average, but it remains higher for both neonates and infants.

The 2022/23 mortality rate for children aged from one to 17 was also the highest rate in the country.

The paper shows that for 2022/23 there were 17 neonatal deaths, with a rate of 3.7 per 1,000 infants – the national rate was 2.7.

The data shows that there were 22 infant deaths in 2022/23, with a rate of 4.7 per 1,000 for Shropshire, compared to 3.8 nationally.

The childhood mortality figures, which cover children aged one to 17, show there were 18 deaths in the county in 2022/23, with a rate of 18.9 per 100,000, compared to 13.6 nationally.

The report to be considered by board members states: "For Neonates, Infants and Children STW ICB are showing higher mortality rates than the national average."

It adds: "Childhood mortality for the last financial year was significantly worse than the national average and as a standalone year was the highest mortality rate in the country. The overall four-year period childhood mortality was below national average with small numerical variations between individual years."

Dr White said they were expecting the impact of changes made at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust as a result of the Ockenden investigation into the maternity scandal to result in an improvement.

He added that the figures in the report had been highlighted so there can be 'oversight' of any actions to address the issues.

He said: "While neonatal and infant mortality is and has been historically higher than the national average, NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin (ICB) is anticipating that the programme of work related to the Ockenden review will build on the improvement already seen in mortality rates in 2022/23. As of September 1, 2023, 136 out of 158 actions arising from the final Ockenden reports have been implemented (84 per cent overall). Of these, 111 have now been evidenced and assured.

"Due to the low number of child deaths in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, the mortality rates can be skewed by a relatively small increase in childhood deaths. This is why four years of mortality data are reviewed as the assessment of the childhood rate of mortality. Against this measure Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin benchmark well below the national average and have a relatively low rate of childhood mortality.

"Despite this benchmarking data, there has been an increase in childhood mortality both in real and relative terms in 2023. Whilst this could be seen as normal variation, it has been highlighted to the ICB so that there can be oversight of the actions relating to this increase."

He added: "The purpose of the mortality surveillance being presented at ICB board is to help identify those areas where the ICB could undertake wider reviews and it enables us to be responsive and focus on specific areas that need improvement.

"Initial interpretation of the mortality data indicates that there needs to be a focus on the most economically deprived communities in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin. The paper states that while childhood mortality over a four-year period remains lower than the national average, the increase in the mortality rate in 22/23 needs further investigation to ensure that there are no underlying issues."

The parents whose campaigning led to the launch of the Ockenden Inquiry have written to the ICB to urge board members to outline how the situation will be addressed.

Rhiannon Davies, her husband Richard Stanton, and Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths, from Myddle, urged the organisation to be 'publicly transparent'.

They said: "We want to know what you are proactively doing to understand why your integrated care system has the worst neonate, infant and childhood death figures in the entire country.

"And we want to know what you are doing to address the issues contributing to these deaths please?

"We recommend you are immediately publicly transparent about the situation now, and continue to update the public you serve with the actions you are taking, and the results these bring."