Report calls for a national child death database

A study commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) has recommended establishing a national database to collect, analyse and share Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) data at a national level.

The report by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University found that there was clear frustration and disappointment amongst CDOPs about the lack of a proper national system.

While CDOPs have an important local focus “the absence of national data to enable examination of individual causes of (child) deaths means it is simply not possible to identify the difference between a one-off cause and an emerging trend” such as nappy sack suffocation * or blind cord strangulation.

There is evidence of beneficial regional sharing and learning between CDOPs but this is not a universal activity and relies on an informal email network as the only form of communication. This informal approach carries an inherent risk that newly emerging preventable deaths are not identified and the chance of preventing future deaths is missed.

Commenting on the report the Government said:

“The Government welcomes this report, and will consider its implications: we want to get the best possible use from the information collected by Child Death Overview Panels to help us understand better why children die and what can prevent it.”

About the Child Death Overview Panels

Since April 2008 it has been a statutory requirement that all Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) have a local CDOP to review the deaths of all children in the area from birth to 18 years.

This information is then used to inform strategic planning on how to “best safeguard and promote the welfare of children” in the area.

* Where a baby or young child suffocates on a plastic bag used for the disposal of nappies.

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Updated November 2013