Child deaths rise by almost 50% across Bedfordshire

Mother and baby-2
Image: ThorstenF/Pixabay

Child deaths in Bedfordshire rose to 65 between April 2022 and the end of March last year, a rise of 44% since 2020/21, according to a new report.

In the last 12 months, there were 45 expected deaths and 20 unexpected deaths, according to a report to Luton Borough Council’s scrutiny children’s services review group.

These were notified to the Luton and Bedfordshire Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP). This is a multi-agency panel set up to review the deaths of children normally resident in the county, learning lessons and sharing any findings to prevent future loss of life.

“There were 61 deaths in 2021/22 and 45 deaths in 2020/21 in the area covered by this panel,” said the report. “Locally, figures for infant deaths per 1,000 live births are 5.4 in Bedford, 4.0 in Central Bedfordshire and 6.2 in Luton.

“The greatest number of deaths were among those under one year, with the largest proportion being through perinatal loss of life.

“Nationally there were 361 fewer deaths than a year earlier. And there were 25.4 child deaths per 100,000 population in England for 2020/21, which is a decrease from the previous year.”

The panel reviewed 44 deaths, although some of these happened between 2018 and 2022. Out of these, 13 (almost 30 per cent) of the reviewed child deaths had modifiable factors and 28 (nearly two-thirds) were infants, explained the report.

“The greatest number of deaths were among White children (15 of the 44) followed by Asian Pakistani children (12 of 44). There were two deaths reviewed which were the subject of a child safeguarding practice review (CSPR).

“The category of death for children where a modifiable factor was found was perinatal/neonatal at four, chromosomal/ genetic/ congenital at three, one from infection, two SUDI/unexplained deaths, two deliberate self-inflicted harm or suicide and one acute medical or surgical condition.

“Modifiable factors include maternal obesity during pregnancy, substance and alcohol misuse or drugs, challenges with access to services and triage, substance or alcohol misuse by a parent or carer, inadequate housing, smoking and consanguinity.”

LBC’s director of public health Sally Cartwright referred to the report as “a Bedfordshire-wide paper”, saying: “The panel considers the factors relating to a death with all service providers and partners on a case-by-case basis.

“That’s part of an improvement process. The report aims to make recommendations for actions and changes across the system. In Bedfordshire, 65 children died across 2022 and 2023.

“But we might be looking at cases from previous years. Of those cases reviewed, there’s a higher risk of death in the more deprived areas. There’s an overrepresentation in Asian Pakistani groups compared to the base population in the county.

“The modification list doesn’t mean causes of death. It’s factors, which could have been adjusted in the run-up to death. Nationally it’s a similar picture, but the order of frequency differs in Bedfordshire. There are recommendations for further work.

“We’re planning to share the findings more widely and how people are viewing deprivation as a risk factor,” she added. “On consanguinity, the NHS has received some funding locally in Luton, particularly for culturally sensitive genetic services for families and pregnant women.

“This enables culturally sensitive conversations to be had about close marriage and what there could be risks of, providing informed understanding.”

By Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter

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