HL Deb 22 November 1979 vol 403 cc275-7
Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give the figures of still-births in the years 1976, 1977, 1978 in England and Wales and state how these compare with other countries in the EEC.


My Lords, the number of still-births in England and Wales fell from 5,709 to 5,108 between 1976 and 1978 and, if present trends continue, will be even lower in 1979. In 1975, the latest year for which full information is available, the proportion of still-births to all births in England and Wales was broadly comparable with that in Belgium, France, Italy and the Republic of Ireland and rather higher than in West Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark. I am advised, however, that international comparisons of still-birth rates need to be treated with caution, as they are subject to variations of definition or practice between different countries.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask whether he does not agree that it is a tragedy that any woman should lose a child in this way? Would he be kind enough to look into this and see whether there is any action that can be taken to limit the numbers? Can he also tell me how many of these births occur in the home and how many in hospitals?


My Lords, I certainly agree that these are all tragedies. Regarding the proportion of deaths which took place in the home and in hospitals, the figures are rather interesting. In 1976 the proportion of still-births in hospitals was 96.9 per cent. and at home 2.5 per cent.; in 1977, in hospitals 97.4 per cent., at home 2.3 per cent.; and in 1978, in hospitals 97.6 per cent. and at home 1.9 per cent. It would look as though there are more deaths taking place in hospitals now than there were before. I think the answer is that there is better care of pregnant women taking place, so that when there appears to be a difficult birth, a woman is very quickly sent to hospital.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the figures, on the basis given, are, shall we say, reassuring? Would not the noble Lord also agree that it is absolutely essential that we do not cut post-natal and ante-natal care and maternity services in hospitals?—otherwise the figures will show a dramatic increase.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord is well aware that the last thing we wish to do is anything of that kind. All the area health authorities are asked to take the maximum trouble about children, elderly people and all deprived people.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether there is a wide variation in the number of stillbirths per thousand of live births in different parts of the country? If there is such a variation, what would this be due to?


My Lords, there is certainly a wide variation. The inner cities and deprived urban areas are always the places which are the worst. In the country regions our record is much closer to the excellent results achieved in Scandinavia.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say what proportion of these births are premature births and what proportion of them went to the full term?


No, my Lords, I am afraid I cannot.


My Lords, has the Minister in fact counted the Government's Protection of Official Information Bill in his statistics for still-births?

Back to