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Premature births 'cost £1bn a year'

The public cost of premature births in the UK has been revealed by a new study.
Researchers from the Oxford Centre for Health Economics say that premature births cost the NHS £939 million - almost £1 billion - each year.

The study funded by the baby charity Tommy's is the first ever to look into the full economic impact of the issue.

Over 80,000 babies are born prematurely in Britain every year and more than 40,000 of these will have to spend time on intensive care wards.

Delaying the births by just one week could save around £260,000, according to the study, while more funding for research into ways to delay premature births could save £260 million a year, the charity claims.

The study was calculated based on the first 18 years of all preterm babies born in 2006.

Factors including healthcare, education and the cost to parents of having to have more time off work were all taken into account.

Jane Brewin, the charity's chief executive, said: "Given that the UK rate of premature birth is rising, this mammoth cost is set to grow even larger.

"A plan must be developed which will target medical research resources to reduce premature birth."

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