Children in the UK are twice as likely to die before they are five years old as they are in Sweden, according to a new study
The research by Nottingham University compared data gathered from the UK and Sweden, which has one of the lowest child death rates in Europe, despite a similar health system.
It found the primary causes of death in the UK were problems associated with premature birth, inborn (congenital) abnormalities and infections.
Experts also discovered both newborns and young children were significantly more likely to die of treatable infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and systemic blood poisoning.
Delayed motherhood may also play a role, with older mothers-to-be more likely to have problems during pregnancy.
Researchers used under-five mortality data from 2006 to 2008 obtained from the Office of National Statistics for both countries.
They found over the three years that 614 British pre-school children died per every 100,000 births.
In Sweden, only 328 died per 100,000, according to the results published in the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The main difference scientists found was a markedly different rate of premature births.
Some 138 deaths per 100,000 in Britain were caused by being born prematurely, compared to just 10 per 100,000 in Sweden.
The report said: “The majority of research funding within the UK is focused on clinical trials of new technologies and in particular different medicines.
“Our findings suggest that it would be more appropriate to fund research into service delivery to examine reasons why children do not receive existing treatment in a timely manner, rather than evaluating new medicines.
“The former is more likely to result in a significant reduction in mortality than the latter.
“There are major differences in child mortality between the two countries. Action is needed to reduce the socioeconomic inequalities in the UK.
“Additionally, one needs to learn from practices in Sweden with regards to the delivery of healthcare to families with young children.”
According to Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, in 2013, more than 5,700 babies died just before, during or soon after birth. That’s over 100 babies every week.
Professor Jim Thornton, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Nottingham said “For an otherwise healthy baby to die undelivered near term is, with hindsight, an easily avoidable event.