Page last updated at 18:46 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 19:46 UK

Deprivation factor in baby deaths

The amount of money spent on maternity care does not have a significant impact on rates of infant or perinatal mortality, researchers have claimed.

The University of Birmingham looked at data from the 303 Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England over three years.

Researchers found the differences in mortality rates were down to maternal age, social deprivation and ethnicity.

The average death rate for babies up to one week old is eight per 1,000 nationally.

'Solutions' needed

In the Heart of the Birmingham PCT area, the death rate is 14.4 per 1,000 - the highest in the UK - 12 per 1,000 in Stoke-on-Trent and 5.5 per 1,000 in Herefordshire, Michele Paduano, BBC Midlands Today health correspondent said.

Researchers looked at the number of infant and perinatal deaths, ethnicity, deprivation and maternal age for each PCT and how much each one spent on maternity services.

They found that there were considerable differences in infant and perinatal mortality rates, but they did not relate to the levels of financial resource directed at them.

Nick Freemantle, professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at the university, said the research was important for hospital trusts.

"All the services with a higher level of funding were found to deliver a better experience, but what we are concerned with is tackling the outcomes.

"We need to think very carefully about how resources are spent and how it is disseminated from PCTs to the acute trusts.

"It is important for PCTs to remember that the findings reveal social conditions and the ethnicity of the communities they serve are more important determinants of infant and perinatal mortality than current variations in levels of expenditure on maternity services.

"We know the causes that impact on the levels of infant and perinatal mortality, what we need to find now are the solutions."

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