Press Release: Urgent Need for Government Action to Address Stagnation in Reducing Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Rates

Published on: 14/05/2024

MAMA Academy, a leading stillbirth prevention charity in the UK, is calling for urgent government action following the release of the 2024 progress report by Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit. The report highlights the critical need for a transformative approach to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death rates and address stark and persistent inequalities.


Key Findings from the Report:

Stagnation in Progress: The stillbirth rate in Wales has remained at approximately 4.4 per 1,000 total births since 2018, with little change in neonatal mortality rates in England and Northern Ireland too.

Unmet Government Ambitions: Despite a decline in mortality rates in England since 2010, progress is not on track to meet the government’s goal to halve mortality rates by 2025. Since 2018, around 1,000 lives per year could have been saved if these ambitions were met.

Preterm Births: Three-quarters of neonatal deaths in the UK in 2021 were among preterm babies, with little progress in reducing the number of preterm births.

Maternal Mortality: The three-year maternal mortality rate for 2020-22 in the UK has increased to the highest rate since 2003-05.


Inequalities in Pregnancy and Baby Loss:

Ethnic Disparities: In 2021, the stillbirth rate among Black babies was over double the overall UK rate and the rate among White babies. The neonatal mortality rate among Black babies was almost double the UK rate.

Deprivation: The stillbirth rate in the most deprived areas was double that in the least deprived areas, and the neonatal mortality rate was two-thirds higher.


Urgent Actions Required:

  1. Renewed Commitments: The government must extend commitments beyond 2025 and ensure they encompass all UK nations with a focus on addressing inequalities.
  2. Data Improvement: Health services in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland should learn from Scotland’s efforts in miscarriage data recording.
  3. Tackling Inequalities: A comprehensive programme of improvement initiatives must be implemented and underpinned by the latest research and focused on eliminating disparities.
  4. Systemic Improvements: Addressing staffing shortages, improving care quality, and ensuring adherence to nationally agreed standards are crucial to prevent avoidable deaths.


Research and Evaluation:

Increased Funding: Although research funding related to saving babies’ lives has increased, it remains a small portion of total health research funding. More investment is needed to understand and tackle the causes of pregnancy and baby loss.

Engaging Diverse Stakeholders: The NIHR Challenge Fund aims to bring together diverse researchers and those with lived experience to address maternity disparities effectively.


MAMA Academy’s Call to Action:

We urge the government to recognise the urgent need for comprehensive and transformative action to save babies’ lives and address inequalities in pregnancy and baby loss. This includes immediate funding increases, improved data collection, and systemic changes to ensure all families have the best possible outcomes.