Call to improve baby hospital care

Calls have been made to improve the standards of care for sick babies in hospitals after a report revealed more direct and specialist care is needed.

Calls have been made to improve the standards of care for sick babies in hospitals after a report revealed more direct and specialist care is needed.

Hospital bosses in the county have said they would like to see more one to one care, which was recommended in a National Audit Office report, but do not have the finances to provide it.

Nearly 70,000 babies a year are treated in neonatal units - the equivalent to one in 10 births - and even though one to one care is recommended it is not always possible to provide it due to staffing levels.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said falling short of this ratio could mean the 'difference between life or death' for very ill babies.

'The recommended government advice is that one staff member cares for one baby but this is just not happening,' he said. 'The specialist work the staff do on neo-natal units is amazing but it is not fair on staff or the babies if they are under so much pressure.

'The worst situation is that babies could die or become even sicker if these needs are not met.'

Most Read

Demand has been increasing - up 9pc in the past three years - as there are more older women having children, multiple births due to fertility treatment and premature babies surviving birth, all of which are more likely to lead to complications.

A spokeswoman for Bliss, the premature baby charity, said: 'We are concerned that, with the lack of upfront investment, this could be another wasted opportunity to deliver the care that vulnerable babies desperately need.'

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital neonatal unit is the most specialised in the county with a total of 28 cots, six in have a total of 28 cots in the NICU; six in the intensive therapy unit, five in the high dependency unit and 17 in the special care baby unit - caring for about 700 babies.

Level three is for the most severely ill babies and this is where staffing levels should ideally be one on one; level two is for babies who are underweight and need help with their breathing so the staffing level should be one nurse for every two babies and level one is the least intensive form or neonatal care with a recommended four babies to one nurse.

A spokesman from the N&N said: 'We do very much want to provide one to one nursing care for our level three neonatal intensive care unit and we did submit a business case for funding to the East of England Specialist Commissioning Group. They are currently reviewing neonatal provision across the region and are not in a position to commit any funding until that review is complete.'

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn has 12 cots which includes one intensive care bed, two high dependency beds and nine for special care. It cares for about 250 sick babies a year. A spokesman said one to one care was already provided here. He said: 'The QEH is proud of its modern and fully equipped level two neonatal intensive care baby unit. The unit is arranged with the personnel and equipment to provide care to infants born at more than 26 weeks' gestation.'

The James Paget University Hospital only provides level two care so the guidelines do not apply here.

The East of England Specialist Commissioning Group which is looking at funding for better services said it was releasing a report on November 23 to present 'key challenges' and ways to 'ensure successful long term implementation' of a tool for neonatal care which has been launched by the Department of Health.

A spokesman said: 'On behalf of NHS Norfolk we have received a business case regarding neo-natal services provided by the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital.

'This is currently under discussion and forms part of the process to review the designation of neonatal units within the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire perinatal network.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter