Plans to improve sick-baby units unveiled

The Government this week unveiled new plans to improve the care of newborn babies. According to the charity Bliss, 11 pc of newborn babies need specialist care.

This week new standards for the care of sick babies were published in an attempt to improve services in England. This is the first time health professionals have been provided with a written set of standards in this area. According to Bliss, the premature baby charity, around one in nine babies requires some form of specialist hospital care when they are first born. That means around 82,000 babies every year, or one every six minutes.

Premature birth leads to far too much physical disability each year. So the publication of these standards was naturally welcomed by physically disabled people who would like nothing better than to see rates of physical disability in newborn babies be reduced.

In a 106-page report into neonatal services, the Government has suggested that the sickest babies – those in intensive care units – be provided with one-to-one nursing care. According to BBC News, only a quarter of intensive care units currently have a one-to-one ratio of staff to babies.

Raising this number would allow many more sick babies to receive the best possible level of care in intensive care units. It may mean that many babies are allowed to leave intensive care sooner than they otherwise would have been. It may even save the lives of some babies who may otherwise not have been saved.

Ministers have also suggested better transport services between hospitals for neonatal units. All hospitals have dedicated transfer teams, but only half of these are operational 24 hours a day. Raising this number would allow more babies to be provided with the specialist help they need faster than they would otherwise have received it.

Every second is valuable to a premature baby, and every minute that is saved on the time it takes a premature baby to get specialist help will reduce the level of physical disability they will be left to deal with in later life. Of course, this suggestion, too, may save lives.

The Government says it wants to see every unit achieve these standards.

This is clearly a big step towards the improvement of healthcare services for babies. There is no doubt that these standards will make a very significant difference to the lives of many babies and families if all hospitals nationwide are able to achieve them. It is to be hoped the Government does not now forget about the great improvements that still need to be made to maternity wards and services.

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