February 5, 2010
The East Midlands Specialised Commissioning Group, the NHS organisation with responsibility for planning, buying and managing all specialised health services across the region, has put plans in place to improve care for approximately 5,500 premature and sick babies in the East Midlands who require specialist neonatal care each year.
It has co-ordinated a review in response to national guidance from the Department of Health, which looked at the organisation and capacity in the region’s neonatal units which care for the most vulnerable newborn babies. It involved all hospitals’ neonatal units, parents and expert clinical networks.
The review has resulted in improvements to neonatal care, with the hospitals across the region working closer together to ensure all babies needing neonatal care are cared for according to their particular needs in the right unit at the right time, as close to home as possible. The plan has now been approved by NHS East Midlands, all the neonatal units and the nine primary care trusts in the region.
In order to deliver this new system of care that makes the most of the region’s specialist facilities and medical expertise, EMSCG has worked in partnership with the clinical experts in the units and neonatal networks to develop clinical thresholds of care for each unit. These determine the age of pre-term babies that the unit can care for and the other aspects of specialist care that the unit can deliver.
In the new improved system which starts in April, the smallest and sickest babies will continue to be treated at lead specialist centres at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Queens Medical Centre and University Hospital of Leicester NHS Trust’s Leicester Royal Infirmary, with the other neonatal units across the region caring for babies according to their unit thresholds. This will ensure that cot capacity is maximised, with the highest level of care for the babies that need it most. All units have agreed to work together with guidance from the lead centres to deliver the best care possible for mothers and babies in the East Midlands.
To support this, £1.7m has been invested into a new dedicated regional specialist newborn transport service, so babies can be quickly and safely transported to the most appropriate unit within the region. This means staff will no longer be taken away from the units to travel with a sick baby in an ambulance. The service is due to be launched this Spring.
Kate Caston, director of the EMSCG said: “This is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and reflects the close working relationship between the East Midlands Specialised Commissioning Group team, clinical experts, the teams on the units and parents. Neonatal care is complex, expensive and labour intensive. This plan shows how we can sustain and make the most of the specialist facilities and staff we have available at neonatal units across the East Midlands, so hopefully the sickest babies don’t have the travel too far from home to receive the best possible treatment.
“We look forward to launching the new regional neonatal transport service in the Spring, thanks to investment from the nine primary care trusts.”
Richard deBoer, clinical lead for the Central Newborn Network added: “The unit thresholds and pathways are a significant development to ensuring the delivery of high quality care as close to home as possible. It puts clinical decision making squarely at the centre of care through close collaboration between clinicians across the networks and provides enough flexibility to ensure that babies are only moved when it is absolutely necessary to do so for highly specialised and complex care.”
Dr Andy Leslie, nurse consultant for the new neonatal transport service said: “The investment in transport means we will be able to transfer babies between hospitals without taking away nurses and doctors from the neonatal units where they are needed to provide care. The new transport service will help us make sure that we can transport sick babies for specialist care at the time they need it, and get babies who are getting better closer to home as quickly as possible.”
Click here for more details of the project