A HEALTH board where a baby was decapitated in a botched delivery has been red-flagged for having one of the highest neonatal death rates in the UK.

NHS Tayside was the only health board in Scotland to be given the red rating, which identifies areas where infant mortality is more than 10 per cent above the UK average.

While Scotland as a whole had the second lowest rate of neonatal deaths in the UK, after Wales, NHS Tayside - where there were 14 neonatal deaths in 2016 - had the third highest rate of any health authority nationally. Only Harrow in England and Betsi Cadwaladr in Wales were higher.


Neonatal deaths refer to infants dying within 28 days of birth.

Tayside was also amber-flagged for stillbirths, indicating a rate up to 10 per cent higher than the UK average. Fifteen babies were stillborn in the region in 2016.

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A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said many of the babies who died in 2016 had congenital anomalies which they could not survive.

She said: “Sometimes, when a baby is diagnosed as having a poor prognosis during pregnancy, a woman will continue her pregnancy in the knowledge that her baby will die before or shortly after birth.

"In these situations, women are counselled and supported by trained staff."

She said the health board "closely monitors" its infant mortality rates, adding: “Every stillbirth and neonatal death is reviewed and investigated as part of the NHS Tayside clinical governance process.”

The latest findings emerged in the annual perinatal mortality surveillance report by Oxford University-based, MBRRACE-UK.

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It comes weeks after consultant obstetrician Dr Vaishnavy Laxman was cleared to return to practice after a high-profile tribunal into the case of a premature baby boy, who was decapitated during a complex delivery at Ninewells hospital in Dundee in 2014.

Dr Laxman, who had been working for almost 24 hours at the time of the tragedy and now practises as gynaecologist in India, was criticised for failing to perform a C-section but experts concluded she posed "no risk" to patients.

NHS Tayside has also been under fire after the Herald revealed it had raided its charity fund to pay for IT equipment after running out of cash in 2014.

The MBBRACE-UK report calculates regional comparisons by adjusting for factors known to increase the risk of infant mortality, such as a mother's age, deprivation status, ethnicity, or pregnancies involving twins or triplets.

It also stabilises for the effects of chance variation due to small numbers of births in some areas.

As a result, differing authorities can be compared on a traffic light system of green, yellow, amber and red flags regardless of their population size or make-up, although authors caution that some variation may be due to differences in the proportion of high-risk pregnancies which cannot be accounted for.

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The data shows that NHS Tayside's rate of neonatal deaths in 2016 was 2.02 per 1000 births, compared to 2.07 in Betsi Cadwaladr, 2.09 in Harrow and a Scottish average of 1.69.

According to the report, the Procurator Fiscal launched investigations into three neonatal deaths in 2016 in the Tayside and South-East Scotland region, which would also cover health boards including NHS Lothian and NHS Borders. The Crown Office were unable to say whether any have resulted in prosecution.


For Scotland as a whole, the MBBRACE report shows that the neonatal death rate was the lowest in the UK after Wales while the stillbirth rate was the lowest of any UK nation - although both are up slightly on 2015.

Mary Ross-Davie, director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland, said the figures were "heading in the right direction", particularly in relation to twins.

She said: "Across the UK the twin stillbirth rate has halved between 2014 and 2016. Multiple births are increasing as more people do IVF, so to see the risks falling all the time is great."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Every case of stillbirth and neonatal death is a tragedy for all concerned, and it’s vital that we learn lessons from each one.

“Scotland has the lowest stillbirth rate in the UK. Stillbirth rates reduced across Scotland by 18 per cent from 2010 to 2014.

"The stillbirth rate in 2015 was the lowest ever recorded in Scotland and whilst rates did rise in 2016 the trajectory remains downwards.”