Why Children Die in Scotland

Why Children Die in Scotland

Around 350 to 450 infants, children and young people die in Scotland each year, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) Scotland in its first ever report on child mortality, Why Children Die.

Statistically, the child mortality figures are in line with the UK as a whole, which itself is amongst the worst in Europe.

In its foreword, RCPCH president, Dr Hilary Cass, and Officer for Scotland, Dr Peter Fowlie, expained: “Maximising children’s chances of survival must take priority in our society, so it is a shocking fact that despite having one the of the best health systems in the world, the UK has one of the worst child mortality rates in Western Europe.”

The majority of deaths occur in children under one year of age, the report says, with the second largest number of deaths occurring in the 15 to 18-year-old age group. (Scottish Government: child death review 8/5/14).

The report recommends several key areas in which specific policy measures by government could help.


Smoking is identified as one of the most important modifiable risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes. The report revealed that 11,000 babies in Scotland are “affected” and 20 infant deaths are “directly attributable” to smoking during pregnancy every year.

Sudden unexplained death

Sudden Unexplained Death during infancy accounted for 21 (post-neonatal) infants death in 2010 (including deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The report calls for the Scottish Government, health boards and local authorities to increase awareness surrounding breastfeeding, smoking and “safe sleeping” to ensure that all parents and carers are equipped with knowledge and skills to reduce the risk of infant mortality.

Sex and relationship education

The report also calls for the Scottish government to introduce a statutory requirement for all schools to deliver comprehensive, “evidence based” sex and relationship education to reduce the number of young, maternal-age mothers across Scotland.

Injuries and poisonings are among the lead causes of “highly preventable” childhood deaths in Scotland.

“Parents and carers need to be supported to make safety a priority, ensuring they are equipped with knowledge and skills as well as resources for creating safe physical environments,” the report states.

The Scottish Government is working in partnership with NHS Scotland and other organisations to debate and collaborate on findings to create changes as recommended by the report.