House of Lords written question – answered on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the ranking of the United Kingdom in the Health at a glance 2013: OECD indicators report for (1) infant mortality, (2) numbers of MRI and CT scanners, (3) low birth weight infants, (4) overweight and obesity amongst adults, (5) mortality from cardiovascular disease, (6) mortality from cancer, and (7) life expectancy at 65; and what plans they have to improve the United Kingdom rankings.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The 2013 edition of Health at a Glance - OECD Indicators, presents the most recent comparable data on key indicators of health and health systems across the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries. Where possible, it also reports comparable data for Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, as key emerging countries.

The ranking of the United Kingdom is as follows:

Infant mortality: UK has the 10

th highest number of infant deaths, per 1000 live births, OECD countries


;Numbers of MRI and CT scanners: CT scanners, UK has the 3

rd lowest number of CT scanners per million population amongst OECD countries; MRI units, UK 7

th lowest per million population amongst OECD countries


;Low birth weight infants: UK has the 14

th highest number of low birth weights as a percentage of total live births compared with other OECD countries


;Overweight and obesity amongst adults: UK has the 7

th highest percentage of population of overweight and obese adults compared with other OECD countries where obesity is physically measured


;Mortality from cardiovascular disease: UK has the 15

th highest mortality rate for ischemic heart disease; UK was has the 12

th highest cerebrovascular mortality rate, compared with other OECD countries


;Mortality from cancer: UK has the 9

th highest number of people who die from cancer, per 1000 population compared with other OECD countries


;Life expectancy at 65: UK was 21

st highest for female life expectancy above the age of 65; UK was 10

th highest for male life expectancy above the age of 65 amongst OECD countries



We want people to live better for longer by making sure they have the support, care and treatment they need. Our mandate to the National Health Service sets out the need for collaborative and partnership working between NHS England, Public Health England, national and local government and clinical commissioning groups to help achieve this aim.

Reducing infant mortality is covered in the NHS and Public Health Outcomes Frameworks and the mandate. The Department is working with Sands, the Royal College of Midwives and other key partners to agree standardised information to raise awareness of the risk factors and warning signs for stillbirth.

Mothers and Babies—Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK has been appointed to continue the national programme of work investigating maternal deaths, stillbirths and infant deaths. They aim to identify what went wrong and why and will make national recommendation on how care can be improved for all mothers and babies.

The Government recognises the importance of starting well through early intervention and prevention and has included “low birth weight of term babies” as an indicator of health improvement in Public Health Outcomes Framework for 2013-16.

Encouraging early access to maternity care ensures women receive the right care at the right time, helping to tackle the negative impact of health inequalities from the start and to begin to improve the health and wellbeing of mother and baby. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence quality standard for antenatal care emphasises the importance of supporting pregnant women to access antenatal care early in pregnancy.

In addition, Start4Life/NHS Information Service for Parents provides parents with advice and information from a trusted source about pregnancy and the first nine months with a baby. The service includes information on how a baby develops, lifestyle advice, including nutrition, exercise and smoking, and how all pregnant women can keep healthy throughout pregnancy and beyond.

Obesity rates in children and adults are levelling off. This stabilisation has been recognised in the OECD Obesity Update published in June 2014. We have a well-developed and wide-ranging programme of actions to reduce levels of obesity. These include working with a wide range of partners including Public Health England, NHS England, Government departments including the Department for Education and Department for Transport, and industry through the Public Health Responsibility Deal. Key initiatives include Change4Life, the National Child Measurement Programme, NHS Health checks, Change4Life Sports Clubs, School Sports Funding and the School Food Plan.

Since 2001, the under 75 mortality rate for coronary heart disease (CHD) has fallen by 46% and by 42% for stroke. The Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes Strategy was published in 2013. It sets out key actions for commissioners and providers to help further improve outcomes in CHD, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

For cancer, over £750 million has been committed to deliver the Cancer Outcomes Strategy and save an additional 5,000 lives every year by 2014-15. Since October 2010, the Cancer Drugs Fund has helped over 50,000 cancer patients in England. The National Institute for Health Research investment in cancer research rose from £101 million 2010-11 to £133 million in 2012-13. In 2011, the Government made a commitment to expand radiotherapy capacity by investing over £150 million more over the Spending Review period.

The NHS decides on CT and MRI equipment purchase and service provision at a local level according to local population needs.




The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of children under one year of age, expressed per 1,000 live births.


For MRI units and CT scanners, the numbers of equipment per million population are reported.


Low birth weight is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the weight of an infant at birth of less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds) irrespective of the gestational age of the infant. The number of low weight births is then expressed as a percentage of total live births.


Based on the WHO classification (WHO, 2000), adults with a BMI from 25 to 30 are defined as overweight, and those with a BMI of 30 or over as obese. Ranked by percentage of population with BMI 30 or over.


Mortality rates are based on numbers of deaths registered in a country in a year divided by the size of the corresponding population. The rates have been directly age-standardised to the 2010 OECD population to remove variations arising from differences in age structures across countries and over time. The source is the WHO Mortality Database. Deaths from ischemic heart disease are classified to ICD-10 codes I20-I25, and cerebrovascular disease to I60-I69.


Deaths from all cancers are classified to ICD-10 codes C00-C97.


Life expectancy measures how long on average a person of a given age can expect to live, if current death rates do not change.

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