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Premature Babies

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

In 2005, there were 435 premature births in England and Wales with a gestational age below 24 weeks; some 383—or about 88 per cent.—of those babies died before they reached their first birthday. No further information is currently available.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. She will be aware of the debate taking place on viability. Does she agree that, when considering this issue, population-based data, such as EPICure 2, are the most reliable available?

The House will be fully aware that we will shortly discuss those serious issues. The British Association of Perinatal Medicine, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued a joint statement in April stating that there is no evidence of a significant improvement in the survival of pre-term infants below 24 weeks gestation in the UK in the past 18 years.

Although there are studies that claim to show improvements in individual hospitals, does the Minister agree that the reason the organisations that she has just cited are of the view that there has been no reduction in the threshold of viability below 24 weeks is that the best research, which looks at every birth rather than a selected sample—more findings have recently emerged—has failed to show any reduction since 1995? That is a good argument for keeping the time limit as it is.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that the EPICure 2 study averaged out every birth in the UK, wherever they took place and whether they were in a hospital with a neonatal unit or not. Does she agree that if a woman goes into premature labour in a hospital with a good neonatal unit, to which the baby is immediately transferred, the outcome for that baby is likely to be much improved?

The hon. Lady is consistent in her arguments: I am equally as consistent in saying that the evidence shows the contrary.