Babies are more likely to die in Herefordshire and the wider West Midlands than in the rest of the country, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week published its latest Health Index for England, showing how 340 local authorities and areas compare on a range of health measures.

This rates Herefordshire as eighth worst in the country for infant mortality, the number of deaths of babies under a year old per 1,000 live births. There were 31 such deaths out of 4,823 births registered in the county over a three-year period.

Strikingly, all the ten lowest-scoring areas on this measure – Tamworth, Bromsgrove, Cannock Chase, Walsall, Malvern Hills, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Herefordshire, Sandwell and Wolverhampton – lie in the West Midlands.

Indeed when taken as a whole, the West Midlands scores well below the national average for infant mortality, rating 87.0 compared with an index of 100 for England. The next-worst region is the North West, at 96.9.


Overall, Herefordshire sits roughly mid-table among English local authorities’ health measures when taken together. Bottom of the table is Manchester, while Hart district in Hampshire comes out top.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a largely rural county, Herefordshire also rates a poor sixth-from-bottom nationally for “access to services”, scoring below 80 for travelling distance to GP surgeries, pharmacies and to sports and leisure facilities. Its “internet access” score is also low, at 81.7.

There are also positives. The county scores relatively well on air pollution (though less well than Cumbria and the North East), road safety (defined as reported road injuries relative to area), and low-level crime (here, shoplifting and bicycle theft).

UPDATE: Matthew Pearce, who took over as director of public health for Herefordshire earlier this year, said: “Every infant death is heartbreaking and we recognise the effect it has on families and those working within the health and care services that support them.

“Across Herefordshire and Worcestershire, partners are working together to develop an infant mortality strategy to reduce inequalities in lifestyle factors that we know effect infant mortality, such as smoking in pregnancy.”