Key reports into baby deaths in Scotland delayed until next year

Public health minister Jenni Minto confirmed the reports into baby deaths have been delayed

Two key reports into spikes in baby deaths will now not be published until next year.

The Scottish Government was due to publish these reports by the end of 2023, after leading public health experts sounded the alarm on the number of infants dying in Scotland.

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However, it has now been revealed these reports won’t be published until 2024, as those carrying out the investigations have found extra work that needs to be done.

Public health minister Jenni Minto arrives for at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: PAPublic health minister Jenni Minto arrives for at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: PA
Public health minister Jenni Minto arrives for at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: PA

The post-neonatal mortality rate in Scotland breached the upper warning threshold in April of 2.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is the first time the threshold has been exceeded since July 2017.

It also comes after there were two spikes in the neonatal mortality rate during the coronavirus pandemic in September 2021 and March last year.

Previously Sarah Stock, a professor in maternal and foetal health at Edinburgh University, said it was “entirely plausible” short staffing and pressures caused by the pandemic played a part in the rising death rate amongst newborn babies.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland appointed retired consultant neonatologist Dr Helen Mactier to investigate the possible causes for these unexplained deaths.

The Government was due to publish this report by the end of the year.

On top of this, the Government has been funding a national hub since October 2021 to review all child and neonatal deaths, and the first annual report from the hub was due to be published in autumn 2023. Both reports have now been delayed until 2024.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has written to public health minister Jenni Minto, asking her to give MSPs in the Scottish Parliament an explanation for the delays.

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Mr Cole-Hamilton has previously written to Ms Minto on five separate occasions to get information on what has happened to the reports.

In his letter, he said: “I would like to express my condolences to every parent who has been affected by these tragic issues. Secondly, I would like to express my concern that both of these reports are delayed.

“There can be few more acute priorities for a government and its ministers than uncovering why the death rate among newborn babies has spiked.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “Given the emotive nature of this subject and the public and media interest that has accompanied it, I would also like to ask that the Scottish Government provide an update to Parliament on this matter, so that representatives can ask questions.”

In response, Ms Minto said: “We have commissioned Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to undertake a review of the increase in neonatal mortality across Scotland in 2021/22,

“The review will seek to understand whether there are any contributing factors to this increase, drawing on relevant data and reports, identifying any learning points and making recommendations for improvements.

“The report was scheduled to be published later this year.

“However, HIS was required to carry out additional work, which has impacted on the timeline.

“It is expected that the report will be published in the new year.”



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