Britain has a higher death rate for infants and young children than Israel, researchers have found.

In 2013 the UK also had the largest absolute number of under-five deaths in the region, a total of 3,800.

Compared with other European countries, the UK’s under-fives mortality rate of 4.9 deaths per 1,000 births was on a par with that of Serbia and Poland.

Within western Europe, Britain had the worst record for deaths of children aged one to four years, and one of the worst for deaths in the first six days of life, and for infants aged between a month and a year.

Study leader Dr Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, said: “We were surprised by these findings because the UK has made so many significant advances in public health over the years.

“The higher-than-expected child death rates in the UK are a reminder to all of us that, even as we are seeing child mortality decline worldwide, countries need to examine what they are doing to make sure more children grow into adulthood.”