Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Gap in health between rich and poor

Death rate now rising in UK’s poorest infants

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 11 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2258
  1. David Taylor-Robinson, professor of public health and policy,
  2. Ben Barr, senior lecturer in public health
  1. Waterhouse Building, Public Health and Policy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK
  1. dctr{at}

The recent report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health highlights the stark gap in health between rich and poor children in the UK and shows that improvements made in recent years have slowed.1 The data on infant mortality released by the Office for National Statistics this month indicate that these improvements are reversing.2

In 2015 infant mortality rose for the first time in a decade.2 Worryingly, the rate has been rising for the poorest children since 2010, while continuing to fall for more advantaged groups, thus widening inequalities (fig 1).


Fig 1 Infant mortality rate (95% confidence interval) by socioeconomic classification, 2008-15. Source: Office for National Statistics. NS-SEC=National statistics socioeconomic classification, based on new Standard Occupational Classification (SOC2010) since 2011. Child mortality data and birth statistics used father’s NS-SEC until 2011 and combined parents NS-SEC from 2012. For this analysis we grouped mortality rates for joint registrations by NS-SEC into three groups: professional (1, 1.1, 1.2, 2), intermediate (3,4), and manual (5 and below, including unclassified)2

Infant mortality is a sensitive indicator of the prevailing socioeconomic conditions affecting children. In recent years child poverty has risen, and services that support children have been cut.3 Health professionals and policy makers should be greatly concerned that these changes might now be leading to increased infant mortality among the most disadvantaged families.


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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