Friday, 16 July 2010

Out-of-hours babies at higher risk of death

It was one of the last items on the news this morning, is buried deep in today's papers and is hidden on the front page of the BBC website, but the story that babies are a third more likely to die if they are born 'out-of-hours' is one that will surely scare the living daylights out of thousands of soon-to-be parents like Mrs B and myself.

The analysis of over one million births over two decades in Scotland has concluded that newborn babies face a greater risk of dying if they are born at the weekend or outside of 0900-1700 Monday to Friday office hours. The reasons given are that there is less access to facilities and expert staff during these times.

Not wishing to scaremonger at all, the risk of death is still very small (5.6 babies per 10,000 out of hours, compared to 4.2 per 10,000 during normal hours). However, no matter how low the risk, the fact that this variation exists at all is surely utterly unacceptable in today's modern world.

A working week consists of 40 hours, but what percentage of babies time their arrival to avoid the week's other 128 hours? And why are senior staff clocking off at 5pm? From the little I have seen and the little I know on a personal level, I thought nurses and doctors worked on a shift basis, covering all key areas like A&E and maternity around the clock. Is this not the case? If Baby B arrives at 5pm will we pass the senior consultants trooping out of the labour ward as we make our way in?

It is so tragically sad to think that those little lives were lost, purely because they were born outside of office hours.

This simply should not happen in 21st Century Britain and, Mr Cameron, something needs to be done now.


  1. My own experiences support this. My child and I received poor care because the birth took place at the weekend. As a result, I am now terrified of having another child...

  2. I hope that your baby comes during working hours and, if not, that you get the best care available. It truly is a time when you value professionals (or at least I did as I was rubbish!!).