Why we need to change the way we manage neonatal services in the East Midlands
Neonatal services provide a range of care for babies born prematurely or with a low birth weight or who become very sick. The care they need is highly specialised and requires intensive nursing support and special facilities.
This care is provided through special neonatal units based in hospitals. Not all units provide all aspects of neonatal care and in the East Midlands there is a managed clinical network, working with all providers to ensure that babies are cared for in the most appropriate unit, according to their age and needs. Doctor-led services for newborn babies in the East Midlands are provided in ten hospitals in addition to the support available to babies following home births or births in midwife-led units.
It has been nationally recognised that reorganising neonatal services is improving care for premature and low birth weight babies with fewer babies travelling long distances for suitable treatment. But, according to the National Audit Office, further improvements to the service are being limited by shortages in nursing staff, a lack of cots in the right place at the right level of care and a lack of widespread specialist 24 hour transport. At the moment there is not comprehensive and easy access to the right level of neonatal unit across the East Midlands and some babies and their families face travelling a long way to get the care they need. Some families even have to travel outside the region because there are not enough cots locally to meet the needs of every baby.
We need to address these issues to make sure we have a network of neonatal services that has enough cots and provides high quality care for newborn babies, regardless of where in the region they are born, as well as appropriate support for their parents.