UK avoidable deaths fall, but no change in child mortality since 2014

Author: Caroline White
UK avoidable deaths fall, but no change in child mortality since 2014

Avoidable deaths in the UK have fallen significantly since 2016, but only in England, and the child death rates hasn’t budged since 2014, reveal the latest figures* for 2017 from the Office for National Statistics.

In 2017, nearly a quarter (23%) of all deaths in the UK were considered avoidable (141,313 deaths out of 607,172), but the rate fell from 228.7 deaths per 100,000 of the population in 2016 to 224.7 in 2017.

But Scotland had the highest avoidable death rates for six out of the seven broad causes, while Wales had the highest rate for respiratory diseases.

And around a third (34%) of all deaths among children and young people up to the age of 19 years in the UK were considered avoidable (1,653 deaths out of 4,918).

Although avoidable deaths in this age group made up 1% of the total number of avoidable deaths in 2017, and rates have fluctuated each year, they haven’t shifted since 2014.

Between 2014 and 2016, Northern Ireland accounted for the highest avoidable death rates among children and young people across the UK, although the rate in Scotland was highest.

Since 2014, injuries have been the leading cause of avoidable death in this age group, with 712 deaths reported in 2017, representing a fall of 43 deaths since 2014.

The second-leading cause of death were perinatal complications, congenital malformations of the circulatory system, and spina bifida, with the number of these deaths remaining at 470 since 2016.

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “With over a third of deaths classed as avoidable in 2017 and little improvement shown since 2014, these latest statistics paint a worrying picture.

“The government has made some progress in relation to reducing these risks with the publication of the NHS Long-Term Plan and commitments to strengthen tobacco controls and the establishment of a National Child Mortality Database, allowing lessons to be learnt and avoidable deaths prevented.

“However, more needs to be done in relation to reducing child poverty – a factor which underpins many of these issues – and investing in health visitors and reversing cuts to public health budgets is an important place to start.”

He continued: “With the highest avoidable mortality rates in the UK, the Scottish government in particular, has an important job to do. [It] is certainly moving in the right direction following the announcement of a series of commitments aimed at tackling child poverty and obesity.

“However, despite recommending a Scotland-wide child death review process to be implemented over four years ago, this is yet to actually be established. Scottish government must move forward with this promise to help reverse this worrying trend.”

The figures also reveal that the gap in amenable deaths by clinical commissioning groups in England widened between 2014 and 2017 for both sexes.

In 2015 to 2017, Blackpool had the highest rate of preventable death for men, with a rate of 415.2 deaths per 100,000; Surrey Heath had the lowest rate with 130.5 preventable deaths per 100,000.

Manchester had the highest preventable death rate for women between 2015 and 2017, with 256.4 deaths per 100,000, compared with South Oxfordshire which had the lowest with 83.0 deaths per 100,000.

Smaller disparities were present between Wales’ local authorities than those in England, the figures show.

*Avoidable mortality in the UK: 2017. Office for National Statistics, 22 February 2019.