AN INTERNAL review is being carried out by Hampshire Hospitals after the rates of babies born with brain damage due to oxygen deprivation at birth increased last year.

An article in The Guardian reported that the ‘disturbing’ data was presented at a Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) meeting and staff were told the situation was under review.

HHFT said that the data reported on a rise in the rates of babies born with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – a type of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain before or shortly after birth – had been “misrepresented” in The Guardian.

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It confirmed that the number of babies born in 2023 with HIE was five times greater than the number born in 2022.

The figures provided by HHFT show that in 2023 there was a rise in babies born with HIE to 2.5 per 1,000 live births. This was up from 0.5 per 1,000 live births in 2022.

However, the trust said the ‘normal range’ as set by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine is between one and 3.5 per 1,000 live births, which it said "demonstrates that Hampshire Hospitals is within the expected range”.

A spokesperson for the trust added: “While the rise in 2023 is well within expected variation, every baby counts, and so we are undertaking an internal review to ensure we have a fully informed understanding of potential causes for this. This is a safe and routine response.

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“Babies born with possible or definite hypoxia around birth are continuously monitored by the trust in conjunction with the neonatal network, and the numbers are shared widely. Hampshire Hospitals has not seen a significant statistical rise.

“Not only have we always monitored, the process is continually modified with ongoing staff training and specialist clinical support.

“Foetal monitoring has been integral to the provision of safe maternity services at Hampshire Hospitals for many years; it is an area of considerable focus with ongoing investment in training, technology, and equipment.”

According to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, HIE can result in severe disability or death.