Around 100 babies a year are dying unnecessarily because they are born outside working hours, experts have claimed.
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A study of infant deaths found babies born outside the hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, were more at risk of dying - an extra one or two deaths per 10,000 live births.
This adds up to around 100 babies dying each year in the UK - most or all of them avoidable deaths, said Gordon Smith, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Cambridge, who carried out the study.
The babies are significantly more likely to die from a lack of oxygen than those born during usual working hours, his research found.
He said: “These babies are all essentially normal and have grown normally. We would have anticipated that they would have a normal life expectancy.
“But something has happened around the time of birth that has asphyxiated them.”
Prof Smith and his colleagues believe one possible reason for the extra risk is a lack of immediate access to senior staff at weekends and during the evenings.
The study comes after research published last month found patients were more likely to die if they were admitted to hospital at weekends.
A major report in June also said the NHS was “too reliant” on trainees outside of normal working hours and called on consultants to work more flexibly.
For the latest study, Prof Smith and colleagues analysed cases from Scotland but said there was no reason the findings would not be replicated across the UK.
They concluded: “Improving the level of clinical care for women delivered out of normal working hours might reduce overall rates of perinatal death.”