OBJECTIVE: To describe a novel approach to hospital mortality meetings to elucidate understanding of contributory factors to child death and inform practice in the National Health Service.
DESIGN: All child deaths were separately reviewed at a meeting attended by professionals across the healthcare pathway, and an assessment was made of contributory factors to death across domains intrinsic to the child, family and environment, parenting capacity and service delivery. Data were analysed from a centrally held database of records.
SETTING: All child deaths in a tertiary children's hospital between 1 April 2010 and 1 April 2013.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Descriptive data summarising contributory factors to child deaths.
RESULTS: 95 deaths were reviewed. In 85% cases, factors intrinsic to the child provided complete explanation for death. In 11% cases, factors in the family and environment and, in 5% cases, factors in parenting capacity, contributed to patient vulnerability. In 33% cases, factors in service provision contributed to patient vulnerability and in two patients provided complete explanation for death. 26% deaths were classified as potentially preventable and in those cases factors in service provision were more commonly identified than factors across other domains (OR: 4.89; 95% CI 1.26 to 18.9).
CONCLUSIONS: Hospital child death review meetings attended by professionals involved in patient management across the healthcare pathway inform understanding of events leading to a child's death. Using a bioecological approach to scrutinise contributory factors the multidisciplinary team concluded most deaths occurred as a consequence of underlying illness. Although factors relating to service provision were commonly identified, they rarely provided a complete explanation for death. Efforts to reduce child mortality should be driven by an understanding of modifiable risk factors. Systematic data collection arising from a standardised approach to hospital reviews should be the basis for national mortality review processes and database development.