Specialist baby care overstretched15th October 2008
A leading charity has warned that specialist baby care units are being stretched because of staff shortages.
In a survey of 194 neonatal units at UK hospitals, Bliss found that only a fifth had enough staff to meet the recommended care guidelines.
The charity also discovered that more than half had been forced to close to new admissions during a five-month period because of shortages.
Some 10% of the 800,000 babies born each year in Britain need some form of specialist care in a neonatal unit, usually because they are premature or underweight.
Bliss wants to see more doctors and an additional 1,700 neonatal nurses recruited to offer an acceptable level of care. At present there are 6,500 neonatal nurses at UK hospitals.
In its report, the fourth of its kind, parents of premature babies were also questioned with many complaining at being transferred between hospital because of staffing problems.
Bliss chief executive Andy Cole said: "Professionals are increasingly being stretched to the limit. Staffing shortages are all too apparent on units and the care of our most vulnerable babies is being compromised.
"No other critical care service would permit the capacity and staffing levels seen on special care baby units."
The British Association of Perinatal Medicine agreed that the staff shortages were worrying.
However, the Department of Health say neonatal services are a top priority in the NHS and there is no evidence to suggest that services were at an unsafe level, though a spokesman accepted that there was still more work to do.
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Title: Specialist baby care overstretched
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 8756
Date Added: 15th Oct 2008