I came home this evening to hear the local BBC news begin with the headline ‘Oxford hospitals NHS trust suspended midwife services

On Friday 21st of September 2018 it was revealed that, on the Thursday evening of that week, the county’s NHS midwives had only been on duty at the John Radcliffe Hospital. All services at five other maternity centres across the county of Oxfordshire had been suspended and all home births were cancelled due to lack of midwives and other staff making it impossible to provide a safe service other than in one single place.

That day I had been showing civil servants from across the government economic service and social research groups the most recent data on rising infant mortality in the UK in recent years, especially mortality around the time of birth when access to good midwifery services that are not over-stretched is essential.

Nowhere else in Europe is falling so quickly down the ranks.

Nowhere else has seen infant mortality rise, significantly, for two years in a row now.

On the 13th of October 2017 the Official for National Statistics produced the following visualisation to try to bring the situation home.

The graphic below does not include the effect of two years or rising infant mortality since 2015 (especially rising neonatal mortality in England), but what it shows is bad enough:

Neonatal mortality rankings, European Union countries, 1990 to 2015

 

When I was born in Oxfordshire the county had one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. It had some of the first baby incubators. A child born in Portugal had a chance of dying in their first year of life that was several times that of a child born in England. Now Portugal (and at least twenty other European countries) have a far better record.

This is what happens when things fall apart.

No excuse can be given for what has happened.

We brought this on ourselves.

Until we accept that it is inexcusable and entirely self-inflected we will not even begin to address the worse deterioration in infant health, as well as older adult health, to have been recorded in the UK since the Second World War.

 
I didn’t know about the disastrous news in Oxfordshire when giving the following twenty minutes speech in London.

 
If I had I would not have included any jokes:

 

 

Diversity of Place:

You may see now (and the UK) as normal – but that badly colours how you think

A talk given by Danny Dorling at the Government Economic Service and Social Research
Annual Training Conference, 200 Aldersgate, St Pauls, London September 21st 2018