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New 'cot locator' launched

27th November 2006

05042006_baby_ward.jpgA National Neonatal Cot Locator system has been launched to help doctors find specialist cots for critically ill newborns.

The government hopes the new system will help medical staff find the nearest available cot for sick babies to enable them to receive treatment as rapidly as possible.  The new computer programme instantly shows which hospitals in England have empty cots and should save valuable time in finding a suitable hospital to treat critically ill babies.  The system will also provide up-to-the-minute information about more distant options should a more local cot not be available.  It is hoped the new scheme will make transfers more smooth and effective.

Recent figures suggest that three babies a day are transferred between hospitals because of staffing and cot shortages, some having to travel hundreds of miles.  One in eight babies needs neonatal care and about 17,000 babies a year require intensive care for a period of time.

In England, NHS neonatal services are divided into 24 regional networks, each having centres of excellence to care for very sick babies.  Government targets aim to ensure that at least 95% of ill newborns are treated within their local network but this is often unachievable and results in many babies being treated hundreds of miles from their homes.  In some cases this is because the expert care required, such as rare types of surgery, is only available at one particular centre in the country. The new system is unlikely to prevent some families having to travel for treatment but will speed up the process of finding a specialist cot for vulnerable babies.

There has been a sharp increase in the numbers of babies requiring neo-natal care over the past decade.  This is due mainly to increasing success rates in IVF multiple births and also to complications in pregnancy in older women.

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