The debate in Parliament over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has provided the opportunity to members to present amendment to either liberalise or further restrict abortions. There is a big push amongst some MPs and in certain outlets of the MSM to reduce the number of gestational weeks during which an abortion can be procured for social reasons. It is currently at 24 weeks, having been reduced from 28 week in 1990.
But that’s all over the news. You don’t need me to tell you something you can read anywhere. What I didn’t know is that there are only 180 neo-natal units in this country. That’s roughly one for every 333,000 people. As you would expect, they are not evenly distributed. It’s another example of the NHS postcode lottery.
If you get yourself to University College Hospital in London, your baby has one of the best chances of survival in the country. In the years just after the legislation was amended to it’s current state, 1991-95 the rate of survival for babies born at 23 weeks was 44%. It has risen since then. At 24 weeks, over the same periods, survival rose from 50% to 81%.
Live where there is no unit and the outlook isn’t so good. Sometimes even the right postcode doesn’t help. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, “according to a National Audit Office report each unit had to close its doors an average of 52 times during 2006-07.” Even if those closures were for only one day at a time, that’s still an average of once a week. Chances are that at least in some cases, the closures were for longer.
Given these problems with the health service, it is surprising that the survival rate for neo-nates is as high as it is. It is not surprising that the rates are higher in other countries.