Kingston’s Public Health Team are carrying out a review of infant deaths in the borough after it was revealed that 12 young babies had recently died.

There were 12 neonatal death reviews (for babies under 28 days old) conducted in the borough in 2018/19, although the council says some deaths may have occurred in the previous year.

This was much higher than neighbouring Richmond, where three babies passed away in the year.

The data also showed between 2015 and 2017 there was an unexpectedly high infant mortality rate in Kingston compared to pan-London figures.

Director of Public Health, Iona Lidington said the team had not uncovered anything “untoward” but were concerned about the statistics and would publish a report of their findings to reassure the board in January 2020.

“We’re an outlier for London and for a borough of affluence that is kind of surprising, but we haven’t picked up anything to say actually it’s this practice, or this risk factor that’s reflecting that,” she said.

Counil leader Liz Green suggested the statistics may be influenced by doctors’ decisions on how to classify stillbirths:

“We’ve been an outlier for some time when we see the statistics come through. It is always a worry.

“I think you mentioned to me, Iona, that with the neonatal deaths, it could be that when it’s classed as a stillbirth, there’s not all the entitlements. So if the delivery team see any signs of life they will class it as a live birth and a neonatal death to ensure that the parents get all of the rights that come with a live birth rather than a stillbirth.

“Actually I think that’s something that is horrific. If you are having a stillbirth you should be entitled to really the same rights of someone who has a neonatal death. I can only imagine how traumatic that would be to go through that. I don’t know if that is slightly masking the actual neonatal deaths that happen, for the right reasons but with the wrong circumstance outcome for the statistics.”

Councillor Ed Fram asked if there was any evidence linking pollution to neonatal deaths in the borough, but Ms Lidington said there was nothing to suggest that.

She said: “Clearly there’s interest in this, we know that in terms of an asthma trigger, for example, we’re starting to look at that, but there has been no evidence so far linking to an increased neonatal death rate.”

There were 16 child deaths across the borough in 2018/19, of which six were unexpected.

There were also 18 child death reviews in the year, as some reviews take more than one year to complete.

In Kingston 18 per cent (five cases) were thought to have had modifiable factors, and could have been prevented.

The highest proportion of deaths reviewed (83 per cent) were for children aged up to 12 months.

There were two deaths in Kingston from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Officer Elisabeth Major said the council had the same learnings as usual, around safe sleeping, asthma and allergies, and to help those who do not have English as a first language or are not sure how to access emergency services.

She added that the high percentage of deaths for those under one was “very significant if you think about the affluence in this part of London and the fact that we live in such a developed country in Western Europe.”