"Trusted" stats group releases wrong Havering baby death data
PUBLISHED: 18:00 19 October 2012
»The biggest institution producing official statistics in the UK last week released incorrect information about Havering's infant mortality rate, sparking concern in the community.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), whose slogan is “Trusted statistics – understanding the UK”, stated that the borough’s baby death rate last year was the highest in London, at eight per 1,000 births, and one of the highest the year before.
In fact, the 2011 figures are not available and the 2010 death rate of children aged one year and under is around half that stated by the ONS.
The wrong information was reported on the Recorder’s front page last week and led to an investigation pledge by the local NHS.
This week a spokesman for the ONS – which informs aspects of national policy – apologised for the mix-up and told the Recorder it was down to a “production error”.
The spokesman added: “The number of deaths reported were for children (under 16), not infants (under one year). The table [up to 2010] has now been updated.”
The shock data, released following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, caused dismay among local health teams, Havering Council, and MPs.
Authorities realised the error some days after the Recorder alerted them.
Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, said there needed to be “greater communication” between Havering authorities, which have a dedicated child death team, to spot anomalies quickly.
He added: “I am extremely disappointed with the announcement concerning infant mortality and the incorrect statistics attributed to our local NHS.
“There will have been countless parents distraught and scared by these incorrect statistics.”
Dr Stephen Farrow, interim director of public health at NHS Havering, explained that bosses needed to “double check” ONS figures against their own.
He said: “Following robust examination of the figures, we can confirm that they were incorrect.
“When looking into a subject as sensitive as child deaths, it is essential that the time is taken to establish the facts.
“The actual infant mortality rate for Havering is half that published in the Recorder last week.
“It took time for us to analyse the figures by double checking against our own information and also asking the local Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP), which is made up of the NHS, police and council, to check their information.
“Local parents can be reassured that while every child death in Havering is a tragedy, the number of these deaths is no greater than anywhere else across London.”