The figures show the number of deaths increased from 195 in 2015 (a rate of 0.28 deaths per 1,000 live births) to 219 in 2016 (a rate of 0.31). The 2016 figures show an 11% increase in the rate of deaths from last year.
The ONS are unsure what has caused the increase but cites possible risk factors as maternal smoking and overheating. They point out that SIDS rates have declined overall over the last 10 years and attribute this to advice and guidance provided by The Lullaby Trust, NHS and Welsh Government.
The Lullaby Trust, the UK’s leading SIDS charity believes the increase may have occurred as a result of recent cuts to Public Health and local parental support services along with widening inequality. The UK already has one of the highest overall infant mortality rates in Western Europe and this year overall infant mortality rates increased for the second year running in England and Wales breaking a decade long pattern of decline.
Francine Bates, CEO of The Lullaby Trust says:
“We are deeply concerned by the increased SIDS rate in England and Wales. The previous downward trend in SIDS deaths has been largely attributed to increased awareness of safer sleep advice so it is essential that this remains a top priority for local authorities and all professionals working with families. SIDS rates are highest in the most deprived areas and we worry that pressures on local authorities’ public health budgets and the increasing number of families being pushed into poverty will lead to slower progress or even further increases in the number of deaths. We urge local authorities to ensure there is adequate funding for health visitors and early years staff who provide crucial safer sleep advice to families with new babies.”
The ONS figures also show an increase in unexplained infant deaths to mothers aged under 20 years in 2016, with an increase of 24% in SIDS rates being seen for this age group. The rate of SIDS is highest in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West each with 0.45 deaths per 1,000 live births. The highest increase was in the West Midlands with the SIDS rate rising 22% from 2015.