National child death review system to be launched

A new national system of reviewing child deaths will be set up in Scotland following concerns the mortality rate is “considerably” higher than in many other western European countries.

Picture: PA

The Scottish Government immediately accepted the recommendation for change published in a report by an expert group.

The report found variation in the way details are examined across the country and said data is poorly co-ordinated.

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Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “The death of a child is always a tragedy for the families and it’s only right that the reasons for that death are explored thoroughly to enable us to put in place measures that can help prevent any future tragedies.

“Setting up this standardised review system will help us to identify what, as a government, we can do to further reduce the rates of child mortality in Scotland and work more closely with families to support them through difficult times.

“We’re keen to ensure, through this process, that bereaved families are at the centre of the review process and that they are given all the information they need in a timely and sensitive manner.

“Through involving families in each review, they will have the opportunity to feed in their views and will, hopefully, feel reassured that all is being done to help prevent the likelihood of similar deaths happening again.”

In Scotland, between 350 and 450 deaths among under-18s are recorded each year, with the most deaths occurring in children aged under one year old.

Of the other age groups, 15-18 has the largest number of deaths, with causes related largely to trauma including road traffic accidents and teenage suicide, the Government said.

Compared with Sweden, the UK has the greatest “excess mortality” in the 15 states that made up the EU before 2004, which includes Germany, Denmark and Finland.

The UK recorded 1,951 excess deaths, far above next placed France with 962.

The proposed new Scottish system would collect and distribute local and national data among key partners to identify common themes on avoidable deaths and spot any emerging trends, the Government said.

A strategic group will oversee the work and make recommendations to policy makers.

It will also establish standards of communication with bereaved families to ensure they are always dealt with in an appropriate and sensitive way by police and health workers.