New figures from the Department of Health show the UK continues to make progress on reducing infant mortality. The latest Mortality Target Monitoring (Infant mortality, inequalities) Update, which includes data for 2007, shows that in 2005-07 there were 9,846 infant deaths overall in England and Wales, giving an overall rate of 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. This was a decrease on 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004-06.

Social category
It has long been established that people from lower socio-econopmic groups have higher rates of infant mortality. Of those in the figures with a valid socio-economic group assigned (8,709), the rate was 4.7 deaths per 1,000. Out of these 8,709 deaths in this category, 43% of these deaths (3,749) were in the Routine and Manual (R&M) group, giving a rate of 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in this group.

Infant mortality rates
The infant mortality rate among the Routine and Manual (R&M) group was 16% higher than in the total population in 2005-07. This figure was 13% higher in the baseline period of 1997-99, so the gap had widened since the baseline.

However, the gap has narrowed in recent years - the rate among the R&M group was 19% higher than in the total population in 2002-04, 18% higher in 2003-05, 17% higher in 2004-06, and 16% higher in 2005-07.
The Government’s health inequalities target to narrow this gap by at least 10% by 2010 remains a challenging one, but if the gap continues to narrow at the rate observed since 2002-04, the Infant Mortality inequality target will be met.

Three-year average infant mortality rates for the Routine and Manual group have fallen in each period since 1997-99.

Single parent registrations down
Although not part of the target, the rate for sole registrations, that is, births registered by the mother alone, is also monitored. The rate in the most recent single year, 2007, remains at 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, the same as in 2006. Single parent status is another known vector for risk of infant mortality and of worse health and life chances.