Advising with empathy and experience

Weekend births a greater risk for babies.

Babies born in English hospitals at the weekends have a "significantly" greater chance of dying than those born on weekdays, according to research at Imperial College, London.

The study of more than 1.3m births found there were around 7.1 deaths per 1,000 babies delivered at weekends, 7 per cent higher than on weekdays.

If all days had the same death rate as Tuesday,  the lowest, there would be 770 fewer deaths per year.

While the death rates were low, the researchers said that the difference was significant and raised fresh concerns about standards of care at the weekend.

The study examined the numbers of stillbirths or deaths within seven days in hospital between 2010 and 2012.

Risk factors such as deprivation and the age of the mother, along with the fact that planned caesarean sections, which carry low risks, normally take place during the week were taken into account.

In total, there are on average 4,500 deaths a year from 675,000 births. Infection rates for mothers and injuries to the babies, including anything, from cuts to brain damage, were also higher at weekends.

Researchers said they could not identify the cause of the higher death risks.

Lead researcher Dr William Palmer said the higher rate of deaths and other problems was "concerning" and needed further investigation.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: "Most mums say they get excellent NHS maternity care but, for a small number of families, that is not the case and it's vital that we take every step to continuously improve quality and safety.

"We have commissioned a wider independent review of NHS maternity services, which will assess how best we can respond to England's growing birth rate and the need for well-staffed and safe services that give mums more say over their care."

President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr David Richmond, said: "Although no definitive conclusions can be drawn from these results, they emphasise the need to identify the possible causes in order to ensure that women are receiving high-quality care at any given day of the week."