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Premature Births: Death

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress the NHS is making in reducing the number of babies who die following premature birth. (295195)

Advances in technology and health care expertise have led to increasing survival rates of very premature babies over the last 20 years. Over the past decade, survival has improved dramatically for babies born at 26 weeks of gestation and above so that now over 80 per cent. survive.

The EPICure Study (led by the university of Nottingham, Department of Child Health) was established in 1995 to determine the chances of survival and later health status by following up children who were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland at less than 26 weeks gestational age during a 10-month period in that year. This is now an ongoing study, which it is hoped will not only show survival and rates of disability but also identify factors at birth, which could give an indication as to the long-term outcome for the survivors.

A new study, EPICure 2, covers all babies born in England at 26 weeks of gestation or less during 2006. This study will demonstrate how effective advances in neonatal care have been since the first study in 1995. Preliminary findings, published in May 2008, found that babies born above 24 and 25 weeks of gestation were significantly more likely to survive in 1995 compared with 2006.

Details of the EPICure studies can be found on the EPICure website: