MedicalResearch.com Interview with
Senior Policy Adviser
NCT (formerly National Childbirth Trust), London, UK
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The study, which was commissioned by UNICEF UK, was designed to take an in-depth look at how raising breastfeeding rates might save money for the health service through reducing illness. It found that low breastfeeding rates in the UK are costing the health service millions of pounds. We calculated that from reducing rates of illnesses, where the evidence is strongest, moderate increases in breastfeeding could see potential annual savings to the health service of around £40m per year.
It should be noted however, that this figure is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg when the full range of conditions affected by breastfeeding are taken into account.
Economic models around five illnesses (breast cancer in the mother, and gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, middle ear infections and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) in the baby), show that moderate increases in breastfeeding would translate into the following cost savings for the NHS:
- If half those mothers who currently do not breastfeed were to do so for up to 18 months over their life, there would be:
– 865 fewer cases of breast cancer
– With cost savings to the NHS of over £21million
– Improved quality of life equating to more than £10million
Over the lifetime of each annual cohort of first-time mothers.
- If 45% of babies were exclusively breastfed for four months, and if 75% of babies in neonatal units were breastfeeding at discharge, each year there would be:
– 3,285 fewer babies hospitalised with gastroenteritis and 10,637 fewer GP consultations, saving more than £3.6million
– 5,916 fewer babies hospitalised with respiratory illness, and 22,248 fewer GP consultations, saving around £6.7million
– 21,045 fewer GP visits for ear infection, saving £750,000
– 361 fewer cases of the potentially fatal disease necrotising enterocolitis, saving more than £6million