INFANT mortality rates have risen in Warwickshire after a century of decline.
The Office of National Statistics has reported a rise in the number of deaths of children under the age of one across England and Wales.
Figures show there were 2,651 infant deaths in 2016, compared with 2,578 in 2015 – a rise from 3.7 to 3.8 deaths in every 1,000 births.
Based on the figures, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recently published predictions of declining child health in the UK up to 2030. It estimated the mortality rate across the UK could be up to 140 per cent higher by that time, than in nearly 20 other first world countries.
Experts have suggested smoking, low breast-feeding rates, asthma and children’s centre closures across the country could be contributing factors to the increase.
County Green Party leader Jonathan Chilvers said: “After close to a century of improvement, the number of deaths of children under one in Warwickshire has started rising again.
“Although we don’t definitely know the reason for this rise we must look to see if cuts to the bone of services for parents of young children have had an impact.
“The Conservative cabinet must have an unflinching look at why this increase in deaths are happening in Warwickshire.”
Tory county council leader Izzi Seccombe and health spokesperson Les Caborn have vowed to investigate.
Last year council chiefs gave the go-ahead to controversial plans to axe 25 of the county’s 39 children’s centres, with a number of the remaining centres being used as ‘outreach’ bases run by third parties.
The move – designed to cut costs following a £67million cut to government funding – is set to be implemented by next October.
But Coun Caborn said the redesign of services could actually help tackle the rising infant mortality rate in Warwickshire.
He said: “The council recently endorsed a new ‘early help’ strategy for Warwickshire which outlines a commitment from all agencies to make sure families get the right support at the right time.
“Additionally we are redesigning the council’s services for children and families. This will enable us to provide more flexible, proactive and preventative support to ensure families, particularly the most vulnerable, can get the information and advice that they need when they need it to help them lead safe, healthy and independent lives.”
He added the council also supported NHS bodies to deliver schemes such as the ‘NHS Safer Births’ and ‘Better Births’ strategies.