UK child deaths ‘avoided in Europe’

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Published: Tuesday 10th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Five children die in the UK every day who would have survived if they were living elsewhere in Europe, a new report has said.

The “alarming” figure means that 1,825 children under the age of 14 die every year in this country because of shortcomings in the healthcare system.

But these children would have survived if they were living in Sweden, which has the lowest mortality rate for children and young people in Europe.

The annual report of the children and young people’s health outcomes forum, an independent body, says that “contrary to popular belief” health outcomes for young people in Britain “are worse than in comparable countries”.

And it warned: “Improvement in child and adolescent mortality has been less in the past 40 years than in comparable developed countries which puts us towards the bottom of countries in the European Union.”

Referring to figures from 2012, the report adds: “This is perhaps most starkly illustrated by comparing ourselves with the country with the lowest mortality for children and young people, Sweden.

“After controlling for population size among other variables, we find that in the UK every day five children under the age of 14 die who would not die in Sweden.”

The report branded the figure “alarming” and said these were young people who could have gone on to be healthy working adults.

There have been some notable improvements in the heath of children – with teenage pregnancy rates at an historic low and a fall in road accident deaths.

But experts warn there are a number of “worrying trends” emerging. The number of children and young people who have gone to A&E departments has shot up by 40% in “recent years” while self harm has also increased at an alarming rate.

Meanwhile, around a third of 11 to 15-year-olds in England are obese or overweight, while 10% of five to 16-year-olds have a mental health disorder, according to the report.

Experts say under-investing in the health of children and young people is a false economy that costs the taxpayer more in the long-term in the cost of hospital admissions.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It is distressing to see from this report that the health outcomes of children and young people in the UK still lag behind the best in Europe.

“It is particularly striking that the report found five children die per day in the UK who would not die in Sweden.

“There is also considerable variation in health outcomes around the UK, with too many children and their families suffering needlessly.

“The need to improve health care provision for children and young people is very clear, not only in terms of the personal tragedies that are occurring but also the massive health problems we are storing up for the future.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Every child should have the same opportunity to lead a healthy life, no matter where they live or who they are. New figures, published today, show infant mortality rates are at their lowest rates ever.

“Deaths in children and young people are also falling, but more needs to be done. Since 2010, we have 2,310 more midwives and over 3,700 more health visitors to help new mothers and their children to have the healthiest possible start in life.”

Published: Tuesday 10th March 2015 by The News Editor

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